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UN: Spread of polio now an world health emergency

A Pakistani policeman stands guard as a health worker gives a child a polio vaccine in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, Monday, April 8, 2014. Pakistan‚??s beleaguered battle to eradicate polio is threatening a global, multi-billion dollar campaign to wipe out the disease worldwide. Because of Pakistan, the virus is spreading to countries that were previously polio free, say U.N. officials. ‚??The largest poliovirus reservoir of the world,‚?Ě is in Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan‚??s northwest Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province, which borders Afghanistan, according to the World Health Organization. (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)
A Pakistani policeman stands guard as a health worker gives a child a polio vaccine in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, Monday, April 8, 2014. Pakistan‚??s beleaguered battle to eradicate polio is threatening a global, multi-billion dollar campaign to wipe out the disease worldwide. Because of Pakistan, the virus is spreading to countries that were previously polio free, say U.N. officials. ‚??The largest poliovirus reservoir of the world,‚?Ě is in Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan‚??s northwest Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province, which borders Afghanistan, according to the World Health Organization. (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Monday, May 05, 2014 09:00 am
LONDON — The World Health Organization says the spread of polio is an international public health emergency that threatens to infect other countries with the crippling disease.In an announcement Monday, the agency described the ongoing polio outbreaks in Asia, Africa and the Middle East as an "extraordinary" situation requiring a coordinated international response.

Polio usually strikes children under five and is usually spread via infected water. There is no specific treatment or cure, but several vaccines exist.

Experts are particularly concerned the virus continues to pop up in countries previously free of the disease, such as Syria, Somalia and Iraq — where civil war or unrest complicates efforts to contain the virus.

Some critics say the rapid spread of polio could unravel the nearly three-decade effort to eradicate it.

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