VENEZUELA (CBS Local) – A deadly and highly infectious disease that was thought to be eradicated has returned to Venezuela.

The Details:

  • A new case of polio has been reported in Venezuela for the first time since 1989
  • Polio can only be prevented through vaccination and can cause paralysis
  • Venezuela’s public health has crumbled due to political and economic crises

Polio, which can only be prevented through immunization, has been found again in a Venezuelan child according to the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO). The child is the first reported case of polio in the country since 1989, when the childhood illness was thought to have been wiped out.

“The virus is transmitted through contaminated food and water, and multiplies in the intestines,” according to PAHO. “Initial symptoms of polio include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck, and pain in the limbs.”

The health organization adds that in a small number of cases, polio can cause paralysis that is often permanent. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was one of many people who were paralyzed by the disease in the 20th Century.

“The virus especially affects people in conditions of malnutrition and unvaccinated, as this case,” Dr. Jose Felix Oletta said, via Medical Xpress. The former Venezuelan Minister of Health claims that President Nicolas Maduro’s current health officials took over a month to notify PAHO of the polio case, despite an international rule requiring notice within 24 hours.

Venezuela has been crippled by political and economic crises for over a year. The U.S. government issued a warning for all American citizens to leave the area last July. “This situation is unfortunate but we saw it coming, because we’ve been denouncing for years that there are not enough vaccines,” Manuela Bolivar of Venezuela’s opposition party said, via The Telegraph.

PAHO added that polio isn’t the only illness to return to the unstable nation. A staggering 85 percent of measles cases reported across all of Latin America and the Caribbean have come from Venezuela.

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