Preemptive Strike Against Polio in Israel

Israeli polio vaccination campaign launched after finding virus carriers

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Dominique Brooks, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Polio is a virus that the world has largely beaten. However, lingering pockets of the disease still pose a serious threat.

After discovering carriers of the polio virus in the southern region of Israel, officials in that country are launching a new vaccination campaign, according to Reuters.

Although there have not been any reported instances of people becoming ill from the disease, officials are moving to take preventive action. 

"Talk to your doctor about vaccinations."

According to Reuters, the new campaign aims to give the active polio vaccine to children in the southern region of Israel.

The move came after the virus was discovered in the sewage system. This discovery led to estimates from the Israeli Health Ministry of at least 1,000 polio carriers in the area.

Polio is a highly contagious virus that enters the body through the mouth. The disease mostly affects children under the age of 5, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most people infected with polio will have no symptoms, while some will experience flu-like symptoms, pain in the limbs or stiffness.

Less than 1 percent of cases will lead to a permanent paralysis of the limbs, and 5 to 10 percent of these paralysis victims will die due to complications like paralysis of the lungs. 

"However, infected persons without symptoms can still spread the virus and cause others to develop polio," CDC noted. 

To battle a potential polio spread in Israel, "The Health Ministry said it was recommending that children born after January 2004, but not younger than two months, report to publicly-funded clinics to be administered oral drops of a weakened active virus vaccine beginning on Monday," Reuters reported. 

According to CDC, the inactivated poliovirus vaccine is typically given for routine immunization. The active, or live, version of the vaccine is "...used in the countries where polio is endemic or the risk of importation and transmission is high," CDC explained. 

The Israeli Health Ministry had taken over 1,000 samples from wastewater treatment plants during the investigation into the presence of polio. Though evidence pointed to human carriers of the virus, the ministry emphasized that "...[N]o case of illness has appeared in humans."

In an interview on Israeli television, Yael German, Minister of Health, said, "The level of immunization in Israel is 98 percent and there are no cases of the disease. But the virus exists, for now in the south."

According to WHO, thanks to vaccinations that protect against the virus, global cases of polio have decreased by over 99 percent since 1988. At that time, there were an estimated 350,000 annual cases around the world, while in 2012, 223 cases were reported. 

However, WHO stresses the importance of continued vigilance in the face of polio.

"As long as a single child remains infected, children in all countries are at risk of contracting polio. Failure to eradicate polio from these last remaining strongholds could result in as many as 200,000 new cases every year, within 10 years, all over the world," WHO reported. 

Review Date: 
August 5, 2013
Last Updated:
August 7, 2013