JERUSALEM, Aug. 18 (UPI) -- Israel expanded its polio vaccination campaign nationwide Sunday to include children 4 months to 9 years old, officials said.
Children will be given two drops orally containing a weakened strain of the virus after the polio was discovered in the country's sewage system in the south. All Israeli children were vaccinated against polio in the past with a dead virus that "does not protect against contagion," said a statement from the Health Ministry printed by the Times of Israel.
"The main goal is for the inoculated children to serve as a protective wall through which the polio virus cannot pass and spread in the population," Haaretz quoted Dr. Eli Somech, chairman of the Israel Pediatric Association and head of the ministry's advisory committee for the program, saying.
So far no cases of active polio have been detected in Israel, Haaretz said.
A decision to launch the nationwide campaign came just weeks after Israel ordered all children in the south to be vaccinated after the virus was found in the sewage system. Health officials told Israel Radio tests conducted on sewage throughout the country showed the virus was spreading toward the center of the country and a decision was made to vaccinate some 1 million children in Israel.
"Our findings point to a steady process of contagion ... The results of our examinations are clear cut; Israel is facing a wild polio virus that is passing from person to person, city to city. It is only a matter of time before it spreads to the entire country," a Health Ministry statement said.
Signs of the virus were first detected in May this year and were believed to have originated from Egypt.