Every Old Disease Is New Again


Good morning to you too, World Health Organization:

After discussion and deliberation on the information provided, and in the context of the global polio eradication initiative, the Committee advised that the international spread of polio to date in 2014 constitutes an ‘extraordinary event’ and a public health risk to other States for which a coordinated international response is essential.

Pakistan, Cameroon, and the Syrian Arab Republic are getting hit hardest. Afghanistan, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Israel, Somalia and Nigeria “pose an ongoing risk for new wild poliovirus exportations in 2014.” Meanwhile, retro pathogens are booming on from the other side of the economic stability spectrum as well.

In New York and California, measles outbreaks are bigger than they’ve been in decades. A decrease of vaccinations across Europe brought with it 26,000 cases of measles in 2011. And one Australian survey found that 83% of Sydney homeopaths advised their clients against vaccinating… Brazil is seeing small outbreaks of diseases like measles. But they aren’t homegrown — they’re reportedly coming in from Europe and the United States…

The World Cup in particular is a worry; the WHO has drafted an emergency plan for anticipated measles and rubella outbreaks resulting from the sudden influx of Americans in Brazil this summer. And because why not, Let’s worry about syphilis again.

So 2014 is the year history finally comes back to wipe mankind off the planet. But why? A study in contrasts:

The consequences of further international spread are particularly acute today given the large number of polio-free but conflict-torn and fragile States which have severely compromised routine immunization services and are at high risk of re-infection. Such States would experience extreme difficulty in mounting an effective response were wild poliovirus to be reintroduced.


The resistance to getting inoculations comes from an unlikely variety of views: Deeply conservative parents reject the government’s interfering with their child rearing; orthodox religious groups dislike vaccines for being man-made, not God-given; and well-educated, health-conscious, affluent and Internet-literate parents don’t see vaccines as organic or natural.

What better way to start the week than with a reminder that human progress is not inevitable — that the very concept is a form of self-sabotage. Wash your hands!