Science / Medicine : Polio Nearly Eradicated in West

<i> Times science writer Thomas H. Maugh II reports from the annual meeting of the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science in Washington</i>

Physicians are “on the verge” of eradicating polio in the Western Hemisphere, according to Ciro A. de Quadros of the Pan American Health Organization in Washington. Epidemiologists found only 11 confirmed cases of the disease in 1990, down sharply from the 930 confirmed cases reported in 1986, when the eradication program began.

The last confirmed case of polio was reported in Guatemala in September, he said, and the long period since then is “a very positive sign.” But he noted that epidemiologists will have to conduct an intensive search for three years without finding any cases before they can say that the disease is eradicated.

The researchers are currently keeping a close watch on two regions where further cases, if any, would most likely occur. Those areas are northwestern Mexico and the northern Andean region.