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African countries say no polio for a year

NEW YORK, July 30 (UPI) -- Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda have had no reports of wild poliovirus cases for more than a year, the United Nations Children's Fund says.

"Today marks a step towards the achievement of a major objective of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative's new strategy -- stopping polio in Africa," officials of the United Nations Children's Fund says in a statement.

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The Global Polio Eradication Initiative was spearheaded by national governments, the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and UNICEF.

From March 2008 to July 2009, more than 100 children in several African countries became paralyzed by polio. During the outbreak, health officials used the Short Interval Additional Dose strategy, in which children are immunized at short intervals with type-specific vaccine to more rapidly raise population immunity levels.

The plan calls for the cessation by mid-2010 of all polio outbreaks and aims to build on success in key endemic countries, such as Nigeria, where the number of polio cases has dropped by more than 99 percent -- from 312 cases last year to three in 2010, U.N. officials say.

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