Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Disease spreading
At speed of flight

Polio, not bird flu

Updated on 1 August 2013 at end of entry

Israel has recently reported several cases of polio.

Since Israel inoculates all children and new immigrants with anti-polio vaccine, the appearance of polio should tell risk management practitioners two things:

    One: In order to eradicate a contagious disease, the effort must be worldwide

    Two: Communicable diseases can – and are – spread at the speed of flight.

According to Israeli sources (, “The strain of polio virus recently discovered in southern Israel is exactly the same kind as the type of virus that is prevalent in Pakistan, and which existed exclusively in Pakistan until recently, reports the Pakistan-based publication Dawn.

“Dr. Nima Abid, a representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Pakistan, told Dawn that the virus was "definitely" from Pakistan, since “The virus genotype (genetic make-up) is the same as prevalent in Pakistan and this is what the research has indicated."

“The samples of the virus strain were found in sewage in Cairo, in December last year.

There had been no cases of polio in Egypt for five years previously, and the disease had been eradicated in Israel much before that, said the WHO official.”

Polio is not the only easily transmitted disease that requires international cooperation to eliminate.

Add to polio small pox and tuberculosis.

Although none is as “sexy” as bird flu, nor do they get the media attention; unlike bid flu, polio and small pox are preventable and TB can be mitigated through prophylaxis. (The TB vaccine is rarely used in the US although in countries bordering areas known for TB, the vaccine is routinely administered.)

The “bottom line” for risk management practitioners is three-pronged:

    One: Be aware of communicable diseases around the world, particularly where your services or products are used.

    Two: Push for policies and procedures that require employees, from Very Senior Executives to the lowest go-fer, to take advantage of all the available preventive medicines for any disease known to be in a destination country – and all stops in between.

    Three: Push for policies and procedures requiring all visitors who are from, or who recently have visited, countries known to host contagious diseases to prove they are protected from the contagious maladies.

A good place to start checking on what is going on in any particular country is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at The World Health Organization (WHO) page at also is helpful, but a bit more cumbersome in locating general country-specific information.

Because very few flights or cruises are non-stop, make certain to consider the possible intermediate stops. This will not provide 100 percent protection since many countries' foreigners-in-transit areas are shared with travelers from around the world.

The best protection is preventive medicine for all travelers and for those people at home who normally interact with foreign visitors.

The time between infection and the onset of symptoms may include the times the carrier is most contagious. The old saw, "An ounce of prevention" is true for all things risk management, and very true for preventive medicine.

Added 1 August 2013

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned Wednesday (31 July 2013) that there was a medium to high likelihood that the polio virus found in Israel will spread overseas. The organization also issued a stark travel advisory warning tourists to make sure they were properly vaccinated before visiting Israel.

The polio virus is found mostly in Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan and the Horn of Africa. The polio strain discovered in southern Israel several weeks ago is believed to be identical to the strain prevalent in Pakistan.

If I wrote it, you may quote it.

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