Israeli Health Ministry to Launch Polio Vaccination Drive

On Sunday, a top health official disclosed that later this week, the Health Ministry would launch a polio vaccination drive for countering what she said is the disease’s ‘real outbreak’. Health officials had confirmed earlier this month that the first case of the disease had been diagnosed in the country for the first time in thirty years. The director of public health, Dr. Sharon-Alroy Preis stated that the aim of the campaign would be to complete the vaccine regimen that includes two doses for children between the age of three months and 17 years, who have only received a single dose.

She elaborated that they had cut back on polio vaccinations in the country between 2005 and 2013 because the disease had been vanquished in the country. Therefore, a number of babies who went through the health system since then had not gotten both the doses required for the disease. The name of the campaign is ‘Two Drops’ and it will be rolled out in Jerusalem later this week, where they had identified the first case of the disease recently, and will then be rolled out in the other areas of the country. Alroy-Preis confirmed that there was an outbreak of the disease in Israel.

She stated that the virus had not just been detected in the capital, but had also been found in sewage in Tiberias and Modiin Illit. She went on to say that the disease was spreading because it is reaching unvaccinated pockets. Alroy-Preis said that one child in Jerusalem who had recently been diagnosed with polio was suffering from paralysis and weakness on one side. She assessed that this should be considered the tip of the iceberg, as there were a number of other infected children. The Health Ministry had confirmed earlier this month that they had identified a mutated form of the virus in Jerusalem in a 4-year old boy.

The child had not been vaccinated against polio and this mutated form of the disease can lead to illness in the unvaccinated. This particular case was considered the first to be identified in Israel since 1989, when they had wiped out the disease through an aggressive vaccination campaign. Alroy-Preis encouraged people to get their kids vaccinated against the disease and stated that there were possibly dozens of asymptomatic cases, if not hundreds. According to disease experts, there is a possibility of a resurgence in cases of polio.

They have said that even if the numbers are manageable, it would still lead to long-term damage in some children. Sewage samples in Israel have tested positive for polio from time to time, but there had not been any clinical cases for three decades. Similar to most of the world, polio vaccination is part of the standard vaccination regimen for kids. Polio can spread via contaminated water, or from person to person. The disease attacks the nervous system and can lead to paralysis within a few hours in some cases. The disease, which has mostly been wiped out from wealthy countries, mostly affects children under 5 years old.

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