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Bangladesh to Resume Polio Vaccinations

March 17, 2006

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) _ Experts in Bangladesh confirmed the country’s first case of polio in nearly six years, prompting the resumption of mass vaccination against the crippling disease next month, the health minister said Friday.

Laboratory tests confirmed that Rahima Aktar, a 9-year-old girl in eastern Chandpur district, has polio, health officials said.

``This is an emergency and we will do our best to completely eradicate the virus,″ Health and Family Welfare Minister Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain said.

Next month’s mass vaccination is planned after a break of about two years, he said.

Bangladesh has been polio-free since August 2000 thanks to extensive vaccination against the crippling disease, according to the government and the World Health Organization.

Polio is endemic in only four countries _ Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan, according to the World Health Organization.

Polio is still present in eight other countries _ including Yemen, Indonesia and Somalia _ where it had previously been eradicated before being imported again from one of the endemic countries, WHO said earlier this year.

Last year, some 1,880 people were infected with polio around the world.

When WHO launched the $4 billion anti-polio campaign in 1988, the worldwide case count was more than 350,000 annually.

Polio is spread when people _ mostly children under 5 _ who are not vaccinated come into contact with the feces of those with the virus, often through water. The virus attacks the central nervous system, causing paralysis, muscular atrophy and deformation and, in some cases, death.

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