A researcher is warning that the plague outbreak that’s reached a “crisis point” in Madagascar could trigger polio. As aid workers are now only focused on the black death, polio has taken a backseat, and some health experts believe that that could be devastating.
Dr. Derek Gatherer from Lancaster University fears aid workers will be so focused on the “medieval disease” that they will forget nationwide efforts to prevent polio cases. “It could derail the polio vaccine campaign, which would be a setback for eradication,” he told The Daily Mail. “If [the] Madagascan health service is bursting at its seam coping with plague, then getting the polio vaccine programme running to plan will be something of a challenge.”
International aid workers are desperately battling to contain the “crisis”, which has prompted 10 nearby African countries to be placed on high alert by the World Health Organization. Nationwide polio campaigns have been in place in recently to immunize millions of children aged up to five years old against the condition, which can cause paralysis.
Professor Allen Cheng, an infectious disease expert at Monash University, warned of the dangers of the plague and said this year’s outbreak has been “unusual” because it is airborne. He wrote in a piece for The Conversation, in which he said: “It’s not possible to eradicate plague, as it is widespread in wildlife rodents outside the sphere of human influence.” The plague, which is caused by the Yersina pestis bacteria, killed hundreds of millions of people in three devastating outbreaks, including the Plague of Justinian in the 6th century.
It is easily treated with antibiotics in the current global climate, however, experts are still concerned it will cause eternal havoc because it is constantly mutating and could eventually become resistant to antibiotics. That would make this disease, which can kill in three hours, much more fatal.
Kyle Harper, a professor of classics and letters at the University of Oklahoma, said biological evolution is ‘cunning and dangerous’.
Professor Harper, author of The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire, told Project Syndicate: “There still is no vaccine; while antibiotics are effective if administered early, the threat of antimicrobial resistance is real. That may be the deepest lesson from the long history of this scourge. Biological evolution is cunning and dangerous. Small mutations can alter a pathogen’s virulence or its efficiency of transmission, and evolution is relentless.”
He also didn’t mince words when saying that we may not be the favored team in the near future against the plague. “We may have the upper hand over plague today, despite the headlines in East Africa. But our long history with the disease demonstrates that our control over it is tenuous and likely to be transient and that threats to public health anywhere are threats to public health everywhere.”
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Contributed by Dawn Luger of The Daily Sheeple.