After tests, WHO rules out return of polio to Venezuela

A child is vaccinated against polio, the crippling childhood disease which has been largely eradicated but was feared to have reappeared in Venezuela

Tests carried out by the World Health Organization following a suspected case of polio in Venezuela have ruled out any return of the crippling childhood disease, the UN agency has said. Polio has been eradicated for decades in the crisis-wracked country, with the last case of acute poliomyelitis reported in 1989, a former health minister told AFP earlier this month. Fears that the disease had returned to Venezuela surfaced after a two-year-old boy from an impoverished rural area was found with symptoms of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) on April 29, the WHO said in a statement late Friday. AFP can be triggered by a number of different factors and diseases, with poliovirus being just one of them, the agency said, noting that in rare cases, it could also be caused by one of the strains used in the polio vaccine. "Tests... have ruled out the presence of both wild poliovirus and vaccine-derived poliovirus. "There is no risk of spread to the community or outbreaks of polio from this case," it concluded. It said the boy, who lives in a community with low vaccination coverage in Delta Amacuro state, was being examined to determine alternative causes for the paralysis, it said. Venezuela is suffering from chronic shortages of medicines and basic foodstuffs as a result of its crippling years-long economic crisis, blamed by the international community on President Nicolas Maduro. Caracas says it does not have 85 percent of the basic medical supplies it needs, which includes vaccines. On April 6, Maduro's government -- which blames US sanctions for the shortages -- launched a new vaccine campaign against 14 diseases including measles and TB.