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Sunday, September 01, 2013

Ramallah Rotarians to the rescue

Helping keep surveillance top-notch


Although no one has been paralyzed, wild poliovirus is being detected in sewage in Israel, and samples have also tested positive recently in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Given that excellent environmental surveillance was what detected the circulation, Nader Dajani, the club's Rotary Foundation committee chair and fellow Rotarians approached the Ministry of Health in the Palestinian Authority to discuss how to best supplement the needs. Within three hours, the club’s members had decided what to do. Together they would purchase the equipment needed in order to step up even further the surveillance activities. At a ceremony late last month, the Ramallah Rotarians handed over to the health authorities the equipment used for collecting, transporting and testing stools for the presence of polio.

Like many countries which have already eradicated the disease, Israel uses the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) in their routine immunization schedule. A person vaccinated with IPV will be safe from polio, but will still be able to pass on the virus to others. It’s a testament to the strength of their routine immunization services that no one has been paralyzed so far; however, the longer the virus is allowed to circulate, the higher the chances that eventually it will find susceptible individuals, either within Israel or beyond.

That is why the mass immunization campaigns with oral polio vaccine (OPV) launched in August in Israel are so critical. OPV has a unique ability to interrupt person-to-person spread of the virus and if fully implemented, these campaigns will help rapidly interrupt the current circulation of the poliovirus.