New polio outbreak hits China

Children are particularly vulnerable to the polio virus.

Story highlights

  • Outbreak reported in western Xinjiang province, which borders Pakistan
  • Polio a contagious viral illness that can cause paralysis, death
  • Among the ten cases confirmed, six are in children under three years
  • WHO: Virus genetically linked to polio cases circulating in Pakistan
An outbreak of polio has been confirmed in China for the first time since 1999, leaving one person dead and hospitalizing another nine, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The disease, a contagious viral illness that in its most severe form causes paralysis, difficulty breathing and sometimes death, broke out in the prefectures of Hotan and Bazhou in the country's western Xinjiang province.
Among the ten cases confirmed, six are in children under three years old and four are young adults.
The WHO said evidence indicates the virus is genetically linked to polio cases currently circulating in Pakistan, which borders Xinjiang. Pakistan has been affected by the nationwide transmission of the same WPV1 strain.
It also warned the virus could spread beyond the current affected area.
"Although other areas in China or other countries are not immediately at risk due to the geographic distance to the affected province, the polio virus can travel great distances and find susceptible populations, no matter where they live," Helen Yu, from the WHO's Beijing office told CNN.
According to China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Ministry of Health has