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September 22, 2011

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Citywide checks after polio outbreak in Xinjiang

SHANGHAI has stepped up screening to identify children who have missed polio vaccinations after an outbreak, China's first since 1999, was reported in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region earlier this month.

"Migrant children are the main targets of the campaign in the wake of the polio outbreak in Xinjiang," said the Shanghai Health Bureau's Li Shanguo. "Local parents are strictly following the vaccination schedule by taking their children for vaccination in time, while migrant children may miss the injection due to low awareness and their removal from home town to the city."

He said each subdistrict will check all the children in its communities and require eligible children to get the free vaccination.

Genetic sequencing of the isolated viruses in Xinjiang indicates they are genetically-related to viruses currently circulating in Pakistan, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday. Nine cases have been confirmed in China so far, six children and three adults, all in Hotan prefecture in Xinjiang, the WHO said.

Polio is now considered to have spread nationwide in Pakistan, mainly due to insecurity and unrest that has halted vaccination campaigns in areas including the Khyber tribal region, WHO said. As of September 13, Pakistan had reported 84 cases this year, compared to the total of 48 for the same period in 2010.

In China, local public health authorities are currently conducting an epidemiological investigation, including collecting stool samples from contacts and evaluating vaccine coverage.

The Ministry of Health began an initial response vaccination campaign early this month, targeting 3.8 million children aged under 15 in the outbreak area, and children under five in other areas of Xinjiang.

In Beijing, according to a photograph posted online of a notice at a residential community, all Xinjiang people younger than 40 and migrant children younger than six were required to register for checks and vaccinations.

In Shanghai, Li said, "we only screen children and give vaccines to children who were not vaccinated. Adults are so far not covered."

Polio can damage the nervous system and cause paralysis.


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