Taliban Bans Polio Vaccine For Pakistan Children

A ban on polio vaccinations imposed by the Taliban could affect about 280,000 children living in tribal areas of northwest Pakistan, according to estimates from the World Health Organization.

Last month, local Taliban militants prohibited polio vaccines over the United States’ use of drone strikes in the region. When a three-day nationwide effort to administer polio vaccines began this week, health workers and volunteers weren’t able to immunize children in North and South Waziristan. Under this security situation, they “obviously cannot operate,” said Mazhar Nisar, the health education adviser in the Pakistani prime minister’s polio program.

Throughout the rest of the country, vaccination efforts continued as 180,000 health workers and volunteers fanned throughout communities trying to immunize 34 million children, under the age of 5.


The commander, Hafiz Gul Bahadur said that the drone strikes “are worse than polio,” and consulted with other Taliban leaders regarding the decision, according to the statement. Drone strikes are widely unpopular, as the Pakistani government has pressed the U.S. administration to stop the attacks. 20 dead in drone attack in Pakistan

Pakistan remains one of the three countries in the world grappling with polio. The country has had 22 reported cases this year. The other two countries are Afghanistan with 11 cases and Nigeria with 54. Polio is highly contagious and can cause paralysis, breathing problems, deformities and death. There is no cure for polio, so the focus lies on vaccines to prevent the disease. The vaccine is administered orally, and in multiple doses to achieve full immunity. Pakistan’s tribal regions are areas where polio is known to be active, according to disease data. The WHO, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and Rotary International have a joint polio eradication campaign.

Should health workers just withdraw from their anti-polio campaign where the Taliban is concerned? Or should the U.S. relent from their drone strikes?

Source: CNN

Image: India Morning News

Scientific Study Yields Mutant Airborne Bird Flu

The H5N1 bird flu virus could change into a form able to spread rapidly between humans, scientists have warned. Researchers have identified five genetic changes that could allow the virus to start a deadly pandemic.

Writing in the journal Science, they say it would be theoretically possible for these changes to occur in nature. A US agency has tried unsuccessfully to ban publication of parts of the research fearing it could be used by terrorists to create a bioweapon. According to Prof Ron Fouchier from the Erasmus Medical Centre in the Netherlands, who led the research, publication of the work in full will give the wider scientific community the best possible chance to combat future flu pandemics.


The H5N1 virus has been responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of birds and has led to hundreds of millions more being slaughtered to stop its spread. The virus is also deadly to humans but can only be transmitted by close contact with infected birds. It is for this reason that relatively few people have died of bird flu. Latest World Health Organization (WHO) figures indicate 332 people have died of the illness since 2003.

A group led by Prof Fouchier wanted to find out which genetic changes were required to enable the H5N1 virus to mutate into a form that could be transmitted from person to person through the air. They confirmed their theory was correct by genetically engineering those changes into the H5N1 virus which they found could then be spread between ferrets through coughing and sneezing.

It is the first time it has been shown that it is possible for bird flu to become airborne, but the research team was unable to determine precisely how likely this was to happen. Researchers want to be able to calculate the risk of such a virus emerging more precisely in order to help public health officials in their contingency planning.

Should scientists publicize the full information of this study, or should they redact important details to prevent misuse by terrorists?

Source: BBC News

Image: Scientific American