August 23, 2013 – A polio outbreak on the Horn of Africa has spread to Ethiopia. An 18-month-old child in the Warder district of Ethiopia is the country’s first polio case since 2008. Warder district is just across the border from Somalia,where 108 polio cases have been reported this year.
Carol Pandak heads Rotary International’s polio eradication program.
“It’s not surprising that the virus is spreading. This area has been considered high risk because of its proximity to Somalia,” said Pandak.
A Somali refugee camp in Kenya has also seen 12 cases of the paralyzing disease this year.
The outbreak began in Somalia in May, when a two-year-old girl came down with the disease, the country’s first since 2007.
But this strain of the virus did not originate there, Pandak says.
“That virus comes from West Africa. And so, we need to deal with the remaining endemic countries because that’s where the virus originates. And so, you have to deal with both at the same time,” she said.
Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the last three countries where the polio virus is still endemic.