Health Ministry Launches Anti-Polio Campaign

YERUSHALAYIM -
The Bedouin city of Rahat in southern Israel, where traces of polio virus have been found. (Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)
The Bedouin city of Rahat in southern Israel, where traces of polio virus have been found. (Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)

The Health Ministry is gearing up for a national campaign to combat the spread of polio which was discovered recently in southern Israel.

It is believed that a person who had been exposed to the virus brought it with him from Egypt. Evidence of infection appeared in the sewage system of the Negev city of Rahat and has turned up in Ashdod and other communities in the south.

The Health Ministry is planning a public awareness campaign in the coming days to educate people of the importance of washing hands with soap and water before eating and after going to the toilet or handling diapers. In addition, consultations regarding best methods for detecting and stopping the infection will be conducted with experts from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control.

To date, no one has been reported falling victim to the illness, which can result in paralysis and death. Officials have tried to reassure the public, noting that all necessary precautions are being taken and that there hasn’t been an Israeli case of paralysis from polio in two decades. About 95 percent of the population has been vaccinated against the disease.

Parents of children up to the age of six have been advised to go to their well-baby (Tipat Halav) clinics to get their full complement of vaccinations, including polio, if they have not received all the shots. The ministry has ordered a new supply of 220,000 doses of vaccine, just in case.

Most cases of infection pass without any symptoms. In 10 percent of cases, the person suffers from such symptoms as fever, headaches, sore throat, stomach aches, nausea and vomiting, but recovers in a few days. In the third — very rare — form, which affects one per 1,000 individuals, the virus enters the central nervous system and causes paralysis.