November 30, 2018 / 2:49 PM / 13 days ago

WHO says spread of polio remains international health emergency

LONDON, Nov 30 (Reuters) - The spread of polio must still be classified as a public health emergency because, while progress has been made towards wiping out the disease, that progress is fragile, the World Health Organization said on Friday.

“We are so close to the elimination of polio, but we have to use all of our international tools to achieve this end,” Helen Rees, chair of the WHO’s international emergency committee, told reporters on a telephone briefing.

“The ongoing situation continues to require that a public health emergency of international concern should be applied.”

Latest figures from the WHO show there have been 27 cases of wild polio in 2018 - all of them in Pakistan and Afghanistan where the contagious viral disease is endemic.

Rees said the WHO was “very concerned” that this number was slightly higher than last year, and urged governments against complacency in the battle to eradicate the paralysing disease. (Reporting by Kate Kelland)

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