On August 31st, we reported that four children were diagnosed with polio in Xinjiang, China, a country that had been polio-free for eleven years. Since, five additional cases have been reported in this autonomous region of northwest China and the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced today that one of the children has died. The other eight children are currently under recovery with no major life risks. Through gene sequencing, the World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed that the wild poliovirus isolate had a 99 percent resemblance to the virus that is currently circulating in bordering Pakistan and had caused a large polio outbreak there in 2009.
Two rounds of immunization are planned for September 8 – 12, and for October 8 – 12 to target the 3.8 million children under fifteen in the outbreak area and children under five in the rest of Xinjiang. The MOH also dispatched over ninety experts to assist with active search of cases in the region to prevent further spread. While the polio vaccine is commonly administered in droplet form in many countries, it is given to children in a candy-coated formulation.