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6127: Dominican-Haiti-Polio (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By SUSANNAH A. NESMITH
SANTO DOMINGO, 4 Dec 00 (AP) -- A mutated strain of polio traced to a
vaccine has infected at least three people in the Dominican Republic and
Haiti, causing the first cases of the disease in the Western Hemisphere
since 1991, a regional health organization said.
"This is not a desperate situation from the view of outbreak control ...
but it is still a surprise," said Pan American Health Organization
spokesman Daniel Epstein on Sunday. The organization is part of the
Washington-based Organization of American States.
The cases have been traced to the same oral vaccine that experts have
used to eliminate the disease in many countries. Epstein said the standard
vaccine still works against the mutated strain, and that health officials
are organizing vaccination efforts in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Polio is a highly infectious disease that usually strikes children under
5. It damages the spinal cord and brain, causing paralysis and sometimes
The vaccine, known as Sabin 1 oral poliovirus vaccine, uses a weakened
version of the virus to teach the body how to identify and fight active
None of the three patients had received the vaccine, and Epstein said
doctors believe they caught the mutated strain from someone else. That
person may have received a standard vaccination that mutated within them,
then the person passed it on.
Scientists traced the cases back to the vaccine by an analysis of the
polio strain, which shares 97 percent of its makeup with the one used in
the vaccine, the health organization said.
In the Dominican mountain town of Constanza, where the first case was
reported, hospital officials said they have been swamped by people seeking
"Everyone here is worried," hospital director Jose Matos Perez was
quoted as saying in Listin Diario newspaper. "Everyone wants to vaccinate
their children, including many with children that are over 5 years old."
Visitors to both countries should make sure they are vaccinated, the
health organization said.
The last case of polio in the Americas was diagnosed in Peru in 1991.
The organization said tests had confirmed two cases in the Dominican
Republic and one in Haiti since July. Doctors were investigating 16 other
patients suffering polio-like paralysis. None of the patients has died.
The only other known case of an oral vaccine mutating into a virulent
strain was in Egypt between 1983 and 1993, he said. More than 30 people
were infected with that strain.