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Polio strikes eight children in Pakistan during past month

By Rich Klein
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A health worker administers a polio vaccine to a child during a nationwide vaccination campaign to eradicate polio, in the civil hospital in the Pakistani border town, Chaman, along the Afghanistan border in 2014. This week, officials said that eight children in one region of Pakistan were infected with Polio. File Photo by Matiullah/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/462da5d7e0e2a8a074b450240bfcf223/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
A health worker administers a polio vaccine to a child during a nationwide vaccination campaign to eradicate polio, in the civil hospital in the Pakistani border town, Chaman, along the Afghanistan border in 2014. This week, officials said that eight children in one region of Pakistan were infected with Polio. File Photo by Matiullah/UPI | License Photo

June 7 (UPI) -- Pakistan is facing an escalation in polio cases as eight children from the same region contracted the virus during the past month.

The outbreak, the first in more than a year, is tied to parents falsely affirming that they and their children have been vaccinated, as well as those who have refused the vaccine, officials said Tuesday.

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The children live in the Northern Waziristan district that borders Pakistan.

"We are administering the polio vaccine to children up to the age of 10 at all entry and exit points ... to stop the spread of the virus (to the rest of Pakistan)," said Shahzad Baig, the country's emergency operations coordinator.

RELATED Three women killed while administering polio vaccines in Afghanistan

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries where the polio virus remains endemic, according to the World Health Organization.

"In Pakistan, much progress has been made but gaining access to certain nomadic tribal groups in south KP [a region of Pakistan] where there is ongoing community resistance still poses challenges, including some security issues with reports of attacks on police and soldiers," the WHO said in March as part of its 31st international meeting of its emergency committee on polio.

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Zalnul Abedin Khan, WHO's team leader of its Polio Eradication Program, tweeted last month that an emergency vaccination program was launched in late April to protect Pakistani children after a 15-month-old boy was left paralyzed by wild polio.

Poliomyelitis, or polio, is a highly infectious viral disease that largely affects children under 5 years of age, according to the WHO.

"The virus is transmitted via person-to-person spread mainly through the faecal-oral route or, less frequently, by a common vehicle (e.g. contaminated water or food) and multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system and cause paralysis," the WHO states on its website.

Dr. Jonas Salk in 1955 licensed the vaccine that he developed against polio.

The last known naturally-occurring outbreak of the disease in the United States was in 1979.

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In late May, philanthropist Bill Gates posted a video on YouTube about the work being done in Pakistan to "finishing Polio eradication" following his trip there earlier this year.

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