WHO: 10 Facts on Polio Eradication

In honor of the polio vaccine’s 60th anniversary this weekend, we wanted to share the World Health Organization’s 10 Facts on Polio Eradication. Thanks to the power of vaccination, we can #endpolio!

polio_11. Polio continues to paralyse children

While polio is a distant memory in most of the world, the disease still exists in some places and mainly affects children under 5. One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis (usually in the legs). Among those paralysed, 5% to 10% die when their breathing muscles become immobilized.

polio_22. We are 99% of the way to eradicating polio globally

In 1988, when the Global Polio Eradication Initiative was formed, polio paralysed more than 350 000 people a year. Since that time, polio case numbers have decreased by more than 99% (with only 416 polio cases reported in 2013).

polio_33. There are just 3 countries which have never stopped transmission of polio

The 3 countries are Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. They face a range of challenges such as insecurity, weak health systems and poor sanitation. Polio can spread from these ‘endemic’ countries to infect children in other countries with less-than-adequate vaccination.

polio_44. Unlike most diseases, polio can be completely eradicated

There are 3 strains of wild poliovirus, none of which can survive for long periods outside of the human body. If the virus cannot find an unvaccinated person to infect, it will die out. Type 2 wild poliovirus was eradicated in 1999 and case numbers of type 3 wild poliovirus are down to the lowest-ever levels.

polio_55. Cheap and effective vaccines are available to prevent polio

There are 2 forms of vaccine available to ward off polio – oral polio vaccine (OPV) and inactivated polio vaccine (IPV). Because OPV is an oral vaccine, it can be administered by anyone, even volunteers. One dose of OPV can cost as little as 11 US cents.

polio_66. The global effort to eradicate polio is the largest public-private partnership for public health

In fact, it is the largest-ever internationally-coordinated public health effort in history. It is spearheaded by national governments, WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and UNICEF, and is supported by key partners including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Underpinning the effort is a global network of more than 20 million volunteers worldwide who have collectively immunized nearly 3 billion children over the past 20 years.

polio_77. Large-scale vaccination rounds help rapidly boost immunity

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative assists countries in carrying out surveillance for polio and large-scale vaccination rounds. When India was still polio-endemic, there were 640 000 vaccination booths, 2.3 million vaccinators, 200 million doses of vaccine, 6.3 million ice packs, 191 million homes visited and 172 million children immunized: all this in just one round of the national immunization days.

polio_88. Every child must be vaccinated to eradicate polio

This includes those living in the most remote and underserved places on the planet. To get each vaccine safely to children everywhere, all manner of transport is used – from donkeys to motorbikes to helicopters – to reach those living in remote areas, in conflict zones or difficult terrain.

polio_99. Polio-funded staff, strategies and resources are also used to advance other health initiatives

Strategies to find and map every child can be applied to other public health initiatives. While a vaccination team is in a remote village, they can, for little additional cost, provide other health interventions while they are there. For example, vitamin A has been given alongside polio campaigns. Since vitamin A gives a general boost to immunity, it allows children to fend off a range of infections, this has averted more than 1.5 million deaths.

polio-1010. We can eradicate polio

In 2011, this little girl, Rukhsar Khatoon, was the last child to be paralysed by polio in India. The WHO South East Asia Region was declared polio-free in 2014, marking a significant leap forward in global eradication, with 80% of the world’s population now living in certified polio-free regions. The world can be freed of the threat of polio – with everyone’s commitment, from parent to government worker and political leader to the international community.

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