Today the World Health Organization declared an international emergency around the resurgence of a vaccine-preventable infectious disease that can paralyze a kid within hours. (Or, in the WHO's ominously, passively voiced statement: "It was the unanimous view of the committee that the conditions for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern have been met.") So far in 2014, they have recorded 68 cases, almost three times as many as during the same period last year.
Poliomyelitis is a highly contagious infectious disease that, in the mid-twentieth century, paralyzed or killed around half a million people every year. In the wake of Jonas Salk's 1957 vaccine, the disease became rapidly, drastically less common. In recent years, international health organizations have painted a picture of inevitability: Polio should soon be totally eliminated from Earth. This is a rosy Vine from The Gates Foundation last year:
But this morning the WHO committee said the international spread of polio to date in 2014 "constitutes an 'extraordinary event' and a public health risk to other [countries] for which a coordinated international response is essential." This is only the second time ever that this level of warning has come from the WHO (Influenza outbreaks in 2009 being the first). Kids aren't getting vaccinated, especially in conflict zones, and adult travelers in endemic areas aren't getting their vaccine boosters. The Geneva-based committee said that more than half of the polio cases in 2013 resulted from international spread.