U.N.: Polio Cases Reach 219 in Indonesia

Monday, August 15th 2005, 9:32 am
By: News On 6

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ The number of Indonesians stricken by polio climbed to 219, the U.N. health agency said Monday, with 14 new cases reported in children who hadn't been vaccinated for the crippling disease.

Most of the children came from parts of Java island, an area that has reported many polio cases already, said Sari Setiogi, spokeswoman for the World Health Organization.

``All these children had not been vaccinated,'' Setiogi said. ``Again, I should stress that vaccination is the only way to prevent a child from being paralyzed.''

The polio outbreak _ Indonesia's first in 10 years _ has prompted authorities to vaccinate up to 6.5 million children. But authorities acknowledged earlier this month they missed 700,000 children, whose parents stayed away following erroneous media reports that the vaccine caused the death of some children.

The rumors mirrored those spread across Nigeria in 2003, where polio vaccinations were suspended for several months after radical Islamic preachers told parents they were dangerous and part of a U.S. plot against Muslims.

Islamic leaders in Indonesia _ the world's most populous Muslim nation _ have backed the vaccinations.

Polio is spread when unvaccinated people come into contact with the feces of those with the virus, often through water.

It usually attacks the nervous system, causing paralysis, muscular atrophy, deformation and sometimes death, although only about one in 200 of those infected ever develop symptoms.