Bill Gates has often been called the most powerful doctor in the world.
This unofficial title comes from the fact that the co-founder of software giant Microsoft (MSFT) – Get Microsoft Corporation Report has devoted all his efforts since becoming a philanthropist to health causes. The billionaire has become one of the biggest donors to the World Health Organization (WHO).
And through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, co-founded with his ex-wife Melinda French Gates, he funds health and poverty-relief projects in developing countries, including malaria research and vaccination programs. The mogul has also made eradicating certain diseases a priority.
First Case of Polio in the U.S. Since 9 Years
One of his priorities has been the eradication of polio, a deadly viral disease Gates devoted a lot of energy to. In April 2013, Gates, one of the world’s biggest philanthropists, announced in Abu Dhabi that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will contribute $1.8 billion to the polio eradication campaign known as the Global Polio Initiative eradication of poliomyelitis (IMEP).
But just when the deadly viral disease, which was once the leading cause of paralysis in children worldwide, was believed to be on the verge of being eradicated, a case has just been detected in the United States, the first since 2013.
The announcement of this bad news particularly affected Gates, who hastened to sound the alarm.
“From Malawi to the United States, new cases of polio are a reminder that until we #EndPolio for good, it remains a threat to all of us,” Gates warned in a post on Twitter on July 22.
A resident of Rockland County, 30 miles north of Manhattan, who was unvaccinated, has contracted polio, health authorities in New York State announced on July 21. The patient first experienced symptoms about a month ago and now suffers from partial paralysis. He has not traveled recently and would therefore have been infected in the United States.
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More Cases to Come?
State and County health officials advised medical practitioners and healthcare providers “to be vigilant for additional cases.”
“Based on what we know about this case, and polio in general, the department of Health strongly recommends that unvaccinated individuals get vaccinated or boosted with the FDA-approved IPV polio vaccine as soon as possible,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said.
“The polio vaccine is safe and effective, protecting against this potentially debilitating disease, and it has been part of the backbone of required, routine childhood immunizations recommended by health officials and public health agencies nationwide,” she added.
This case is “indicative of a transmission chain from an individual who received the oral polio vaccine (OPV), which is no longer authorized or administered in the U.S,” since 2000, officials say. However, someone could have received it abroad, before infecting other unvaccinated people with its attenuated viral strain.
The last known case of polio in the United States was in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A 7-month-old child who had just moved from India to the United States was diagnosed in San Antonio, Texas.
The WHO warned last month that a type of poliovirus derived from oral polio vaccine – which, in rare cases, can cause infection in others but not in the person vaccinated – had been detected in London sewage samples. It can cause severe illness and paralysis in unvaccinated people.
Polio, a highly infectious viral disease that largely affects children under the age of 5, has been virtually eradicated worldwide, according to UNICEF. Cases have fallen by 99% since 1988, when polio was still endemic in 125 countries and 350,000 cases were recorded.
Infections declined sharply in the late 1950s and early 1960s in the United States, with the development of a vaccine. The last natural infection to have occurred in the U.S. dates from 1979.
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