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Polio Epidemic in Tajikistan 'Almost Over'

A girl receives a polio vaccine at the central hospital in the Tajik town of Tursunzade.
DUSHANBE -- Tajikistan says a polio epidemic last summer that led Russia temporarily to ban entry to Tajik children under the age of six is almost over, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Deputy Health Minister Azam Mirzoev told RFE/RL that the last confirmed polio case in the country was registered on July 4.

He said that according to international norms, an epidemic is considered over if no new cases of polio have been registered over a period of six months. Even so, Mirzoev continued, the authorities will continue vaccination throughout the country in 2011.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said that as of December 16, Tajikistan had reported 709 cases of acute flaccid paralysis, of which 458 are laboratory-confirmed for wild poliovirus type 1.

According to the WHO, there have been 29 deaths among the 458 laboratory-confirmed polio cases.

Four lethal cases were reported in children less than 1-year-old, 12 in the age group 1-5 years, 10 in the age group 6-14 years, and three in children aged 15 years or older.

Jurakhon Najmiddinov, health department spokesman in the southern Khatlon province, the epicenter of this year's polio epidemic, said that some 110 children who contracted the disease have been left permanently disabled.

Nusratullo Amirov, the official representative of Khatlon province's Healthy Life Center, told RFE/RL that at least 80 percent of all registered cases of polio in Khatlon could have been avoided if parents had adopted a more serious attitude to vaccination.

He said some parents failed to have their children vaccinated at the optimum age, or at all.

International organizations had provided Tajikistan with an adequate quantity of vaccine.