Progress on the Polio Epidemic
By admin August 15, 2016

5760Poliomyelitis, more commonly known as polio, is an illness that is almost pre-historic. Spread through fecal matter, it has devastated millions of children’s lives by paralyzing their legs and forcing them to live crippled throughout their adulthood. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are 10 to 20 million-polio survivors worldwide. After the discovery of its vaccine in the 1950s, incidence of polio have declined significantly, with many developed nations having been declared polio-free for decades now. Developing countries have also had strong progress in eradicating polio due to large global campaigns funded by either local governments or international organizations such as the WHO. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, set up in 1988 by Rotary International, WHO, UNICEF and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has now almost managed to eradicate the disease.

India was declared polio free in 2011, and in 2000, polio was declared officially eliminated in 37 Western Pacific countries, including China and Australia. However, some of the world’s most troubled nations remain difficult to reach, and in the case of polio, until every last person has been vaccinated, there will remain the threat of wide-spread infections due to its easy transmission. Afghanistan and Pakistan were the last known regions with cases of wild polio, with many healthcare workers having risked their lives in attempts to vaccinate children in some of the most hard to reach villages. The threat of terrorist activity, unstable governments, and continued violence made the eradication impossible. Sub-Saharan Africa had made strides, with Nigeria and many others had two-years of being polio free. However, recent findings have showed that there are still a handful of children who have newly been infected – and a country needs to be polio-free for three-years to officially be declared so.

One case in Guinea and two in Nigeria have recently been found to be the last remaining challenges for this continent. This has government officials worried and they are taking rapid action to ensure that vaccination and screening continues in full swing. Poverty and religious extremism remain some of the biggest challenges to eradicate polio entirely. Recently, Islamic extremist declared a fatwa against the vaccine, claiming that it would cause sterility amongst children. In Guinea, the high rates of poverty prevent children from getting access to clean water and food that prevents the spread of polio. To complicate matters, there was question in Nigeria regarding the quality of the vaccine, with many health officials reporting a tainted batch.

Diseases like polio not only ruin lives, but also hamper a country’s growth. The parents of the newly infected children have a tough time making ends meet as is, and with a crippled child, their burden increases by ten-fold. By bringing attention to this epidemic, international organizations hope to mobilize aid and help the families of the last sufferers of this ancient disease. In Nigeria and Guinea, a three-year polio free streak is well within reach, and officials remain optimistic to reach it within the coming years.


More Information:

Guinea eyes official end of polio outbreak but bigger challenge remains for Africa

 Nigerian Government reports 2 children paralyzed by wild poliovirus

India polio-free for a year: ‘First time in history we’re able to put up such a map’

Pakistan polio: Seven killed in anti-vaccination attack

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