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UN Declares Polio Emergency As Disease Spreads In Pakistan

Anti polio campaign in Swat, Pakistan.
Anti polio campaign in Swat, Pakistan.
Amid the skyrocketing number of polio cases in Pakistan, the World Health Organization (WHO) has announced an international health emergency.

Zubair Mufti, the head of the WHO's polio department, told RFE/RL on May 5 that there had been 59 polio cases registered in Pakistan by the end of April.

He said that is a marked increase compared to the six or seven cases reported at the end of April in 2013.

"It has been discussed on local and international forums since some time that Pakistan is causing the spread of [the polio] virus and that the virus of the Pakistani origin has been detected in several other countries," he said.

The WHO said in a statement on May 5 that new polio outbreaks have created an "extraordinary" situation that requires international cooperation to fight it.

Outbreaks of polio have been reported in countries previously declared free of the disease -- Iraq, Syria, and Somalia.

Observers say polio's spread could undermine an almost 30-year effort to eradicate the disease.

With reporting by AP, AFP