Originally created 05/30/97

Polio cases plunge 96 percent in Southeast Asia



ATLANTA - Massive immuni-zation campaigns in Southeast Asia have all but eradicated polio from one of the last areas plagued by the paralyzing disease, the government said Thursday.

Polio cases throughout the re-gion plunged 96 percent from 25,711 cases in 1988 to 1,116 last year, the Centers for Disease Con-trol and Prevention said.

Since 1994, all 10 countries in the region have conducted at least one campaign in which they in-creased doses of vaccines over a period of a few days regardless of previous vaccinations.

In December and January, the oral polio vaccine was given to 165 million children younger than age 5 in six of the region's 10 countries, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal and Thailand.

In India, an ambitious campaign vaccinated 117 million children on Dec. 7 and 127 million on Jan. 18. The country has seen polio cases drop 69 percent, from 3,263 cases in 1995 to 1,005 cases in 1996.

The World Health Organization hopes to rid the world of polio by 2000. It has been completely eliminated from North and South America, and at least 150 countries now report no cases of the disease.