While polio is a distant memory in most of the world, the disease still exists in some countries like Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Currently, 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.
The goal is to ensure that in the very near future, children under 5 will have one less deadly disease to worry about and to ensure this happens, there’s a lot of sensitisation about the disease and what can be done to prevent it. In this vein, here are 6 things you need to know about polio.
We’re 99% near making polio a thing of the past, globally.
When the Global Polio Eradication Initiative was formed, polio was rampant – paralysing more than 350,000 people a year. Since that time, polio case numbers have decreased by more than 99%. More than 16 million people have been saved from paralysis because of vaccination efforts against the disease.
Polio currently exists in only 3 countries
These 3 countries are Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan and they face a range of challenges such as insecurity, weak health systems and poor sanitation. The disease can spread from these ‘endemic’ countries to infect children in other countries with less-than-adequate vaccination.
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 cases of type 3 wild poliovirus haven’t been found anywhere in the world since 2012.
Vaccination is the best bet in polio prevention
There are 2 forms of vaccines 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 25 Naira.
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.
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.
The world can be freed of the threat of polio. All it takes is for everyone to commit towards working together to eradicate it – from parent to government worker and political leader to the international community.