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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Health Note/Fighting Polio

Air Date: Week of

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Living on Earth’s Diane Toomey reports on the final push to eradicate polio.


CURWOOD: Just ahead, America’s environmental shadow on the rest of the world. First this Environmental Health Note from Diane Toomey.


TOOMEY: An international coalition is beginning a final assault in the war against polio, the dreaded disease that still affects seven African countries along with India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The partnership is made up of individual governments, the UN, private foundations and volunteers.

Known as the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, it uses an oral vaccine to immunize young children, the population most vulnerable to the infection. Disease rates are most intense where population density is high and sanitation levels are low. This month, sixteen countries in West Africa will try to immunize all 60 million children within their borders under the age of five. The targeted area includes Nigeria, which still has a high rate of polio.

The project is on track to meet its goal of a polio-free world by the year 2005. That goal is within reach because the polio virus cannot survive long outside the human body and has no other animal host. So once everyone is vaccinated, the disease will be eradicated. But to accomplish that, the coalition must continue to immunize in regions where violent conflict makes it most difficult to do so. That includes the war-torn countries of Somalia, Angola and Afghanistan. That’s this week’s Health Note. I’m Diane Toomey.

CURWOOD: And you’re listening to Living on Earth.

[MUSIC: The Chieftains, “Jimmy Mo Mhile Stor” TEARS OF STONE (BMG, 1999)]



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