Europe Close to Eradicating Polio
ATLANTA (AP) _ Just seven cases of polio were reported in all of Europe and Western Asia last year, and only two cases have been reported in 1998, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.
Last year’s cases in the World Health Organization’s 51-country European region _ which includes former Soviet Asian republics and parts of the Near East _ all were in Turkey and Tajikistan. Both of this year’s cases were in Turkey.
The number of cases is a sharp decrease from earlier in the decade, when between 177 and 197 cases of polio were reported in the region each year from 1991 to 1996.
The WHO said last month that it may reach its goal of eradicating polio worldwide by 2000. It has attacked the disease in high-risk areas by sending volunteers door-to-door to give children the oral vaccine.
The crippling disease has been wiped out in the Western Hemisphere since 1991. The toughest remaining areas are in Africa and in pockets of Asia, including India and Afghanistan.