Reuters reports that on August 5, Israel’s health ministry began a polio vaccination campaign targeting 150,000 children in the southern region. Although Israel has not had a case of polio since 1988, wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) was found in sewage samples taken April 9 from Rahat, a city in southern Israel. This is the first time poliovirus has been detected in environmental samples in the country since 2002.
Polio is a highly infectious disease that causes permanent paralysis in one of every 200 infected individuals. The virus is most often spread through fecal-oral transmission and usually affects children under age five. Because there is no treatment for polio, prevention by vaccination is crucial to stop the spread of the disease.
While there are still no cases of illness associated with the recent environmental detection of poliovirus in Israel, surveillance has indicated several carriers of the disease. The vaccination campaign is a precautionary measure to prevent a resurgence of polio. It will be administered orally as a weakened active virus vaccine to children in southern Israel between two months and nine and a half years of age.
Some Israelis are concerned that the oral polio vaccine (OPV) is unsafe because it contains an active virus. However, the CDC recommends oral polio vaccine over inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) in areas where polio is endemic or risk of transmission is high, asserting that the benefits of providing intestinal immunity and secondary spread of OPV outweigh the risks of contracting vaccine-associated paralytic poliomyelitis (VAPP). According to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, VAPP occurs in only one of every 2.7 million children vaccinated with OPV.
Polio is currently endemic in only three countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria. However, the 110 reported cases from Somalia and Kenya this year (as of August 6) and the environmental samples containing poliovirus from Israel demonstrate the potential for importation of the virus into non-endemic countries and the importance of vaccination campaigns to eradicate this highly infectious disease. Since 1988, the WHO reports that vaccination campaigns have successfully reduced the number of polio cases by 99 percent.
Global Polio Eradication Initiative. http://www.polioeradication.org/Dataandmonitoring/Poliothisweek.aspx
Israel to launch limited active polio virus campaign in south. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/04/israel-polio-idUSL6N0G50O320130804?rpc=401&feedType=RSS&feedName=rbssHealthcareNews&rpc=401
Poliovirus detected from environmental samples in Israel. http://www.who.int/csr/don/2013_06_03/en/index.html
Protests voiced against oral polio vaccination. http://www.timesofisrael.com/protests-voiced-against-oral-polio-vaccination/
Vaccines and Preventable Diseases: Polio Vaccination. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/polio/