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Return of eradicated diseases due to disinformation campaigns

EN Version

Transmissible polio (poliomyelitis) is a highly contagious viral disease of the nervous system affecting the spinal cord. In the former Czechoslovakia, more than twelve thousand people, mostly children, fell ill between 1939 and 1956, of whom 1 159 died. Since 1957, vaccination with a non-living vaccine was introduced, followed by a live vaccine in 1960. Thanks to a successful vaccination programme, in 1961 we achieved the status of “polio-free” (i.e. a country free of poliomyelitis virus), the first ever country to do so (proclaimed by the World Health Organization).

Since 1988, the incidence of wild poliovirus in the world has been reduced by more than 99% thanks to vaccination campaigns. However, the countries of the Asian continent, particularly Afghanistan and Pakistan, remain problematic among the countries with endemic poliovirus. In Pakistan, as in neighbouring Afghanistan, polio virus is endemic. Vaccination teams there have been constant targets of armed attacks over the past decade. From 2012 to the present, a number of health workers have been killed, as have their guards, without whom the work of health workers in Pakistan is currently unthinkable. All countries of the world therefore remain at risk until the virus is fully eradicated. The disinformation campaigns leading to the discontinuation of polio vaccination may have a negative impact even in countries where the disease is no longer present in the long term. Read the full report on this issue in the next edition of Coffee Beans – short articles that offer unique insights into complex issues.

Authors: Prof. RNDr. Vanda Boštíková, Ph.D., Fakulta sociálních věd, Univerzita Karlova, a Prof. RNDr. Aleš Macela, DrSc. Fakulta vojenského zdravotnictví, Univerzita obrany

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