GENEVA, May 2 (Reuters) Thousands of Afghan and Pakistani children will be vaccinated for polio next week as health experts try to stamp out a flare-up of the crippling virus, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said today.
The UN health agency said there have been five polio cases in Afghanistan and two in Pakistan since the start of 2006.
''Even one case in a country is a problem, because it can circulate in the country and outside the country,'' spokeswoman Fadela Chaib told a news briefing.
Caused by a viral infection involving the brain and spinal cord, highly contagious polio can paralyse a child for life within hours.
The WHO launched a worldwide campaign in 1988 to wipe out polio, but failed to reach its target of halting transmission worldwide by the end of 2005.
Pakistan and Afghanistan were among the four countries still considered polio-endemic at the beginning of this year, along with Nigeria and India.
Medical teams will move from house to house near the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan to administer the drugs in a three-day campaign starting on Sunday, Chaib said.
''It is really important to target the shared corridor,'' she said. ''The focus of transmission in these countries is in the border area.'' REUTERS CH PM1606