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Virulent Polio Outbreak Strikes Congo December 24, 2010
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Health worker inoculating a child against polio in the Republic of Congo.
More than 200 people have died from a rare and unusually fatal outbreak of polio in the Republic of Congo, according to UNICEF.

The United Nations children’s agency says that the outbreak is unusual because most of those affected have been young adults, rather than the disease’s usual victims, who are children under the age of 5.

Normally, about 10 percent of people paralyzed by polio die when their breathing muscles stop working.

But a UNICEF spokesman says that about 42 percent of the recent cases in the Republic of Congo have been fatal.

“Polio is an absolutely red-hot traveling virus, which will affect a lot of people if immunization rates are not good,” said Martin Dawes.

“The fact we have this virus means there was a hole in the immunization rates in the past.”

Photo: World Health Organization