GENEVA (Reuters) - Polio has broken out in China for the first time since 1999 after being imported from Pakistan, and there is a high risk of the crippling virus spreading further during the annual Haj pilgrimage, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.
Nine cases have been confirmed in China and polio is now considered to have spread nationwide in Pakistan, mainly due to insecurity that has halted vaccination campaigns in areas including the Khyber tribal region, a WHO spokesman said.
“The WHO rates as ‘high’ the risk of further international spread of wild polio virus from Pakistan, particularly given the expected large-scale population movements associated with Umra and the upcoming Haj...in the coming months,” the Geneva-based body said in a statement.
Haj is the main annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, which is due to start in November. Umra refers to other pilgrimages to Mecca, which can take place any time of the year.