Shah Marai / AFP / Getty Images

W.H.O.: Polio outbreak a ‘public health emergency’

The widespread resurgence of polio threatens efforts to eradicate the viral disease

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned Monday warned that the crippling disease polio has re-emerged as a public health emergency, calling the widespread resurgence of the disease a public health emergency after new cases surfaced in a range of countries.

"The conditions for a public health emergency of international concern have been met," WHO assistant director general Bruce Aylward told reporters in Geneva following crisis talks on the crippling and potentially fatal viral disease that mainly affects children under the age of 5.

In an announcement Monday, the agency described the ongoing polio outbreaks in Asia, Africa and the Middle East as an "extraordinary" situation requiring a coordinated international response.

Polio usually strikes children under 5 and is usually spread via infected water. There is no specific treatment or cure, but several vaccines exist.

WHO is calling for all children in the affected countries should be vaccinated or revaccinated to prevent the disease from spreading farther, and anyone traveling from these countries should also be revaccinated and carry proof of vaccination with them.

Experts are particularly concerned the virus continues to pop up in countries previously free of the disease, such as Syria, Somalia and Iraq — where civil war or unrest complicates efforts to contain the virus.

Some critics say the rapid spread of polio could unravel the nearly three-decade effort to eradicate it.

“If unchecked, this situation could result in failure to eradicate globally once of the world’s most serious vaccine-preventable diseases,” the committee said in a news release.

Al Jazeera and wire services

Find Al Jazeera America on your TV

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter