In October 2000, the Ministries of Health of the Dominican Republic and Haiti notified two cases of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) in rural areas, one of them in a 9-month-old female, and the other in a 2-year-old female, respectively. Stool samples that were obtained from these cases, which occurred in July and August 2000, after a 9-year interruption of wild poliovirus circulation in the Western Hemisphere, revealed the presence of type 1 poliovirus. Genetic sequencing, which was later performed at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America, revealed an atypical descendant of the virus used in the manufacture of the oral polio vaccine (OPV), but with 3% genetic divergence with respect to the parent strain. Normally, viral isolates that derive from vaccine components show 99.5% genetic agreement with the parent strain; in wild polioviruses, on the other hand, this agreement is usually less than 82.0%. Thus, the 3% genetic divergence detected in this study suggests that, in areas with low vaccine coverage, the virus used in the vaccine remained in circulation for at least two years, during which it recovered the neurovirulence and communicability of wild poliovirus type 1. This report describes the characteristics and results of the active search for cases of AFP that was sparked by the detection of the two index cases. It also looks at the public health implications of this outbreak for the entire Region of the Americas.
In some countries, the invasive disease caused by Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) has been practically eliminated thanks to vaccination. However, in much of the developing world, meningitides and pneumonias caused by these bacteria continue to be a major cause of childhood morbidity and mortality, as well as high hospitalization costs. Because safe and effective conjugate vaccines are now available, the Special Program for Vaccines and Immunization of the Pan American Health Organization has recommended introducing them into the regular vaccination regimen of as many countries as possible. This has been done in Chile and Uruguay, where the Hib vaccine now forms part of the regular vaccination routine. When the vaccine was being introduced, both countries had difficulties they could have avoided if they had known of the experiences of other nations. Therefore, these two countries now offer the lessons they learned to other nations considering introducing the vaccine into their immunization programs. The most important lessons were to: strengthen the epidemiological surveillance system sufficiently in advance of introducing the vaccine; with th support of sicentific societies, present the technical information that justifies introducing the vaccine; seek community backing and acceptance; precisely establish in advance the presentation and dosage of the vaccine that is most appropriate for the country; and be certain to have the political and legal decisions needed to ensure the continuity of Hib vaccination in the future.