A new case of polio was identified in the north-east Afghan province of Kunduz bordering Tajikistan, a region that had been polio-free for over a decade. It was initially believed that the source of transmission came from neighboring Tajikistan that is currently experiencing a large polio outbreak. However, it is now believed that the virus may have been carried over by recent refugee immigration from flood-ravaged Pakistan. In response, the Afghanistan Ministry of Health has launched a large-scale vaccination campaign with plans to vaccinate 1.5 million children in five nearby provinces from September 5-7.
What was once a highly infectious and fatal disease that left countless children irreversibly paralyzed, polio is now eradicated from most of the world and remains endemic in only four countries: Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan. Although aggressive vaccination campaigns have decreased the number of cases worldwide by 99% from 350,000 in 1988 to 483 in 2001, the number has since hovered around 1,000 each year.