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    Polio cases decrease

    KABUL (PAN): Only 13 cases of polio have been recorded in Afghanistan so far in 2011, a dramatic decrease over the same period last year, according to a statement from the Public Health Ministry.

    No instances have been recorded in the north and east of the country, the Ministry said. The few recorded cases occurred in Kandahar, Helmand, and Farah provinces.

    Ministry statistics indicate that 24 people were contracted polio in 2010, in Kandahar, Helmand, Zabul, and Farah provinces.

    "While this is good news, it is essential to remain vigilant and continue to ensure full coverage of all immunization activities, as partially vaccinated and unvaccinated groups are at high risk," the Ministry said in a statement.

    The statement continued that immunization is a particular priority in the south, where mostly children are affected.

    The World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), and other partners are “investing heavily in improving routine immunization coverage in the country” along with the Minister, according to the statement.

    Polio is a virus whose early symptoms can include high fever. The virus can attack the spinal cord and the brain, causing paralysis or even death. Afghanistan, according to the Ministry, “is one of only four countries left in the world where the disease remains endemic.”

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