Poliomyelitis, better known as polio, is a contagious viral disease that has been all but eliminated in most of the Western world thanks to a vaccine invented in the 50s by Jonas Salk. It has been eliminated in the First World, and almost eliminated in the Third World. India, one of the few countries where polio still kills children, reported just 66 cases of the disease last year, down from 1600 in 2002. This year, however, 325 cases have been reported already, 23 of them fatal.

Why?  A few ultraconservative Muslim clerics are telling Muslims in the state of Uttar Pradesh that the polio vaccine is really a drug to sterilize Muslim children and lower the Muslim birth rate. 70% of those infected with polio this year are Muslim, even though Muslims account for only 13% of India’s population. Dr Hamid Jafari, the regional advisor for the World Health Organization (WHO) on polio eradication, says “in certain places, fatwas have been issued against the vaccine.”

Uttar Pradesh is a very poor region, and their hospitals and health services are marginal at best. All too many Muslims are able to believe that health workers, who ignore them otherwise, are not giving them medicine to fight polio, but to get rid of them.

This is not merely a problem for India. Genetic analysis shows that the Uttar Pradesh strain of polio has left India, and spread to at least three African countries – Angola, Namibia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – which are fighting their own strains of polio. In addition, the virus has re-infected two neighboring countries which were polio-free – Bangladesh and Nepal.

The Small Town Hick also posts at Obeservations of a Small Town Hick

Be Sociable, Share!