As more and more children in third world countries are immunized against polio, scientists are discovering something strange: new forms of the disease are cropping up, as the new forms of the virus are mutating into existence in places where the disease should have been eliminated. In other words, polio is becoming a kind of superbug.

The number of confirmed cases of polio in Namibia has hit 19, and 150 more cases of the disease are suspected. Until this recent outbreak, the disease had been eradicated there for over a decade. The new outbreak has affected mostly adults and the new version of the disease is much more virulent than the old one was. These adults were probably never vaccinated.

The Namibia epidemic came from Angola, which got polio from India (where the disease remains an epidemic). In New Scientist, Debora MacKenzie quotes WHO’s Bruce Aylward as saying, “This just shows that we have to eradicate polio everywhere, because while endemic areas persist, the virus will find susceptible people.”

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