Medical authorities in Venezuela revealed this weekend that they have recorded the first case of polio, a disease largely eradicated in the developed world, in over 30 years.
“A Sabin type 3 vaccine poliovirus was isolated and typified by the national reference laboratory at the Rafael Rangel National Institute of Hygiene, in the sample of this patient collected on April 30, 2018,” the Panamerican Health Organization said in a statement.
Polio, or infantile paralysis, is an infectious disease caused by one of three strands of the Poliovirus that enters the body through the nose or mouth and later develops in the throat and intestines. It can be prevented through vaccination.
Symptoms include high temperature, sore throats, headaches, migraines, and vomiting. Although most people recover quickly with treatment, around one percent of people die from the infection or are left with some degree of permanent paralysis.
“The government is not approving the money for the vaccines,” said Manuela Bolivar, a member of the country’s opposition-controlled National Assembly who has looked at the recent rise of infectious diseases. “This situation is unfortunate but we saw it coming, because we’ve been denouncing for years that there are not enough vaccines.”
“I think this is a state policy, to not acknowledge the crisis, because it would be acknowledging the failure of the health system created by Hugo Chavez,” she continued.
“The virus especially affects people in conditions of malnutrition and unvaccinated, as in this case,” added Dr. Jose Felix Oletta, the country’s former Minister of Health.
The case is the latest example of the avoidable tragedies befalling Venezuela as the country’s humanitarian crisis under Nicolás Maduro’s socialist regime worsens. Venezuela has seen a rapid rise in the number of serious health cases amid a chronic lack of medicine and medical resources. The leading Venezuelan newspaper, El Nacional, has described the crisis as a “Health Holocaust.”
As part of former leader Hugo Chávez’s “Bolivarian Revolution,” Chávez enshrined state-provided healthcare in his version of the Venezuelan constitution. Yet amid the collapse of the country’s economy, the regime has been forced to make drastic cuts that mean most people cannot access basic healthcare.
Members of the Venezuelan opposition have pleaded with the United States and other regional powers to open a “humanitarian corridor” to help ease the impact of the humanitarian crisis, which Maduro has prevented from being organized.
Last week, the European Union announced $47 million in aid to health charities across Venezuela to provide health assistance and other essentials services to those most in need, although no major international humanitarian operations are in place.