The editorial, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, says this is the first persistent outbreak of polio in a country that was previously certified to be polio-free and it is imperative that health agencies try to limit further spread by ensuring high vaccination rates. Cases are appearing in Russia and Uzbekistan.
The current outbreak accounts for 75 percent of the world's polio cases and far exceeds that of India and Nigeria, which has had polio outbreaks.
"Too many regions and communities have ceased to worry about polio," Dr. Paul Hebert, editor in chief of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, says in a statement with Dr. Noni MacDonald, public health editor. "As a consequence, vaccine uptake rates are all too often well below effective prevention levels."
For example, in Ontario, childhood immunization rates are only in the high 70 percent to low 80 percent range -- comparable to rates in Tajikistan -- because of concerns about vaccine safety, anti-government views and religious strictures against vaccinations, the editorial says.