Not long after reaching a milestone in its campaign to eradicate polio worldwide, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global health emergency and is warning of new outbreaks of the disease. According to an alert released May 5 (.pdf), polio has been spread from Pakistan to Afghanistan, Syria to Iraq, and from Cameroon to Equatorial Guinea.
The alert states that the outbreaks are unusual in that they have occurred in a low-transmission season. Further, the danger of the outbreaks are heightened by the actual location of the infected countries, which are bordered by "several countries with complex humanitarian emergencies or other major challenges."
News of the alert—the first of its kind since WHO was empowered to do so—spread quickly, and was reported in major media outlets including CNN, ABC News, and the New York Times. WHO has issued a set of recommendations for leaders of affected countries to require additional precautions and vaccinations for travelers into and out of the country, and to maintain these requirements for at least 6 months.
The elimination of polio by 2018 is a priority for WHO, which announced earlier this month that India was polio-free. Progress toward the goal has been dramatic, with the number of reported cases reduced to 417 last year.
Physical therapy's relationship to polio dates back to the early 20th century, when the early physical therapists began working on ways to analyze and rehabilitate victims of the disease. Wilhelmine Wright's classic 1928 book Muscle Function was based on her pioneering work on muscle reeducation of patients with polio.
Learn more about how physical therapy impacted the treatment of polio and its aftereffects—visit APTA's history webpage for photos, oral histories, and links to other resources.
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