Polio's Swan Song?

Crippling disease is quickly disappearing

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In 1988, there were 350,000 new cases of polio diagnosed worldwide. Twelve years later, there were fewer than 3,000, reports this wire story from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Polio is a virus that can cause a mild flu-like illness in some people but can be devastating in others, causing nerve damage so severe that it can lead to paralysis.

A vaccine has been available for the disease since the 1950s, and the virus has all but disappeared in the United States. The latest reduction came about as the result of a massive campaign by the World Health Organization and others to eradicate the disease. During the campaign, health care workers went from door to door offering vaccinations.

The number of countries where polio outbreaks occur has also dropped sharply, according to the article -- from 50 to 20, and experts believe that within two years that number will be down to zero.

However, it can only happen if the worldwide vaccination programs continue, as illustrated by two recent cases of polio in Bulgaria. Europe hadn't seen a single case of polio since 1998 until these two, reports this wire story, also from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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