World / Asia-Pacific

Western Pacific Region regains polio-free status

By Shan Juan ( Updated: 2012-11-29 17:21

A meeting of an independent oversight body in Beijing on Thursday has confirmed the Western Pacific Region's polio-free status, as declared by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The confirmation comes after China successfully controlled an outbreak last year in the Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region.

"We are again polio free after viruses came over the mountains from Pakistan into the Xinjiang province in 2011, and our task is to assess the impact of that importation on the Region's overall polio-free status and China's response," said Professor Anthony Adams, Chairman of the Regional Commission for the Certification of Poliomyelitis Eradication.

"At our meeting last November in Hanoi, we already expressed our admiration for the way China had responded to this importation and recommended that it be an example to the rest of the world on how to respond to similar emergencies. We fully reiterate this view today," he said.

The Western Pacific Region, home to more than one fourth of the world's population, has been certified as polio-free since 2000. The 2011 outbreak, which China quickly stopped with technical assistance from WHO and other partners, underscores that no place is safe until the crippling and fatal disease is eradicated from the countries where it remains endemic - Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.

Globally, outbreaks of the disease are at an all-time low. But Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, said "almost is not good enough" when it comes to the poliovirus.

"Although we are closer than ever to stopping the wild poliovirus transmission globally and to achieving the ultimate benefit of the huge investments we have made, we must press for complete eradication, while the political commitment to end this dreadful disease is strong," he said.

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