In Fight Against Troubling Viruses, Vaccines Offer Hope

From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.
In 2016, three viruses made news, and they present difficult problems for health officials in the New Year.
One virus threatens babies in many parts of the world. Another has reappeared in an African nation. And a third is one of the deadliest viruses of modern times.
The three viruses are Zika, polio and HIV.
However, in 2016 scientists and researchers from all over the world worked to make progress against those viruses and to develop better ways to control them.
Zika virus linked to birth defects
The spread of the Zika virus caused public health officials in many nations to put in place strong measures to control its spread.
Brazil, which hosted the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, was hit hard by the virus. Health officials warned pregnant women against traveling to the sporting event.
Zika is usually a mild illness. It is so mild that most people who are infected do not know they have it.
However, in the past two years in the Western Hemisphere, Zika has been linked to babies to being born with extremely small heads. This condition is called microcephaly. The international medical community found that this link to birthdefects makes Zika a very dangerous virus.
In this Feb. 4, 2016 photo, Luana Vitoria, who was born with microcephaly, cries during a physical therapy session at a treatment center in Racife, Brazil. (AP Photo)
In this Feb. 4, 2016 photo, Luana Vitoria, who was born with microcephaly, cries during a physical therapy session at a treatment center in Racife, Brazil. (AP Photo)
Zika first appeared in Uganda more than 60 years ago. It is spread by mosquitos and by sex.
The virus recently appeared in Brazil. Then cases appeared in other countries to the North. Cases were reported in the United States in the southern state of Florida. Health officials in Texas are also concerned the virus might be spreading there.

Dr. Anthony Costello is with the World Health Organization. He says that even one child affected by zika has a very big impact on community resources and a family's ability to deal with the results. Costello considers the disabilities caused by zika to be a “huge blow” to families. 

"It is a public health problem of huge concern for the world. Sixty-nine countries have seen the Zika virus emerge in the last two years. We are talking about a virus that causes brain damage and potentially lifelong disability which is a huge blow to families."
Doctors can only advise women to be careful. They advise women not to travel to areas where the virus is spreading, to avoid mosquito bites or to delay pregnancy.
Currently there is no vaccine against Zika. However, one could be available by 2018.
Polio appears again in Africa
The return of a virus once thought to be gone or eliminated made news in 2016.
The polio virus returned in Africa’s most populated country - Nigeria. Continuing violence in the northern part of Nigeria had made it difficult for all children to get vaccinated. At a time when Nigeria was thought to be almost polio-free, three children were diagnosed with the virus.
In August 2016, an emergency polio vaccination campaign took place in parts of Nigeria that were newly freed from Boko Haram Islamic extremists, who oppose efforts to block the crippling disease. (AP Photo)
In August 2016, an emergency polio vaccination campaign took place in parts of Nigeria that were newly freed from Boko Haram Islamic extremists, who oppose efforts to block the crippling disease. (AP Photo)
Polio continues to exists in another conflict area: along the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
But vaccination efforts continue to give health officials hope that polio can finally be eliminated.
Polio infections have decreased by 99 percent since 1988. In that year, there were about 350,000 cases. In 2016, there were fewer than 40.
Top health official suggests HIV vaccine could be near
In December, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health discussed testing of an experimental vaccine for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Testing on a vaccine started in South Africa. The National Institutes of Health is partly funding the effort. However, Fauci warns that the process will take time and effort.

"An HIV vaccine is not going to be easy. We may not even know if we're going to get a vaccine."

He adds improvements in treatments for AIDS have lengthened the lives of those who have the disease.

"Today, the combinations of therapies we have for individuals - for someone who is in their 20s and gets infected and comes in and gets on a combination of drugs - you could predict that they would live an additional 50 years, 5-0. That is one of the most extraordinary advances in the transition from basic research to an applicable intervention in any field of medicine."

An effective HIV vaccine could finally mean the end for the deadly virus. HIV has infected more than 70 million people and has killed 35 million people over the past 50 years.
I’m Anna Matteo.

Carol Person reported this story from Washington, D.C. for VOA News. Anna Matteo adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter edited it.

Post Polio Litaff, Association A.C _APPLAC Mexico

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Erradicación de La poliomielitis

Polio Tricisilla Adaptada

March Of Dimes Polio History

Dr. Bruno




A 41-year-old man developed an acute illness at the age of 9 months during which, following a viral illness with headache, he developed severe weakness and wasting of the limbs of the left side. After several months he began to recover, such that he was able to walk at the age of 2 years and later was able to run, although he was never very good at sports. He had stable function until the age of 18 when he began to notice greater than usual difficulty lifting heavy objects. By the age of 25 he was noticing progressive difficulty walking due to weakness of both legs, and he noticed that the right calf had become larger. The symptoms became more noticeable over the course of the next 10 years and ultimately both upper as well as both lower limbs had become noticeably weaker.

On examination there was wasting of the muscles of upper and lower limbs on the left, and massively hypertrophied gastrocnemius, soleus and tensor fascia late on the right. The calf circumference on the right exceeded that on the left by 10 cm (figure1). The right shoulder girdle, triceps, thenar eminence and small muscles of the hand were wasted and there was winging of both scapulae. The right quadriceps was also wasted. The wasted muscles were also weak but the hypertrophied right ankle plantar flexors had normal power. The tendon reflexes were absent in the lower limbs and present in the upper limbs, although the right triceps was reduced. The remainder of the examination was normal.

Figure 1

The patient's legs, showing massive enlargement of the right calf and wasting on the left


What is that nature of the acute illness in infancy?
What is the nature of the subsequent deterioration?
What investigations should be performed?
What is the differential diagnosis of the cause of the progressive calf hypertrophy?



An acute paralytic illness which follows symptoms of a viral infection with or without signs of meningitis is typical of poliomyelitis. Usually caused by one of the three polio viruses, it may also occur following vaccination and following infections with other enteroviruses.1 Other disorders which would cause a similar syndrome but with upper motor neurone signs would include acute vascular lesions, meningoencephalitis and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis.


A progressive functional deterioration many years after paralytic poliomyelitis is well known, although its pathogenesis is not fully understood.2 It is a diagnosis of exclusion; a careful search for alternative causes, for example, orthopaedic deformities such as osteoarthritis or worsening scoliosis, superimposed neurological disorders such as entrapment neuropathies or coincidental muscle disease or neuropathy, and general medical causes such as respiratory complications and endocrinopathies.3


Investigations revealed normal blood count and erythrocyte sedimentation rate and normal biochemistry apart from a raised creatine kinase at 330 IU/l (normal range 60–120 IU/l), which is commonly seen in cases of ongoing denervation. Electromyography showed evidence of denervation in the right APB and FDI with polyphasic motor units and complex repetitive discharges, no spontaneous activity in the left calf and large polyphasic units in the right calf consistent with chronic partial denervation. Motor and sensory conduction velocities were normal. A lumbar myelogram was normal. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the calves is shown in figure2.

Figure 2

Axial T1 weighted MRI scan (TR 588 ms, TE 15 ms) of the calves, showing gross muscle atrophy and replacement by adipose tissue on the left, and hypertrophy of the muscles on the right, with only minor adipose tissue deposition


The differential diagnosis of the progressive calf hypertrophy is given in the box.

Causes of calf muscle hypertrophy

Chronic partial denervation

  • radiculopathy

  • peripheral neuropathy

  • hereditary motor and sensory neuropathy

  • spinal muscular atrophy

  • following paralytic poliomyelitis

    Neuromyotonia and myokymia

  • Isaac's syndrome

  • generalised myokymia

  • neurotonia

  • continuous muscle fibre activity due to: chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculopathy, Guillain Barre syndrome, myasthenia gravis, thymoma, thyrotoxicosis, thyroiditis

    Muscular dystrophies



  • tumours

  • amyloidosis

  • cysticercosis

    Link here