What Is Polio?
Polio, also known as Poliomyelitis is a disabling and life-threatening disease caused by the poliovirus, which spreads from person to person — most often from fecal-oral contact — as it gets into the water and food supply. It can also be spread by touch or from droplets from a sneeze or cough of an infected person. Polio is a highly infectious viral disease that multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade a person’s nervous system and cause paralysis. Polio eradication worldwide can save thousands of lives each year.
What Causes Polio?
There are three wild types of poliovirus (WPV) – type 1, type 2, and type 3.
Type 2 wild poliovirus was declared eradicated in September 2015, while type 3 wild poliovirus was declared eradicated in October 2019.
Today, only type 1 poliovirus remains, with Pakistan and Afghanistan the only two countries where polio is still endemic. These countries report hundreds of polio cases per year, and ongoing immunisation efforts have proven challenging due to political challenges, mistrust, and misinformation.
History Of Polio
Polio has existed for thousands of years. In the early 20th century polio was one of the most feared diseases in industrialised countries, where it paralysed hundreds of thousands of children each year. It was not until 1955, when the first polio vaccine was developed, and the subsequent introduction of the oral polio vaccine in 1963, that cases started to decrease and elimination of polio in many countries was achieved.
Prevention and Treatment Of Polio
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) was launched in 1988 to spearhead the global effort to immunise the world’s children. Since its launch, over 2.5 billion children have been immunised.
Though the world is close to consigning polio to the history books, we cannot lose momentum. In communities where population immunity is low, there is the rare chance of circulating vaccine-derived polioviruses (cVDPV) — the longer they survive, the more they replicate and mutate, posing a threat to global polio eradication efforts. Full immunisation against polio is necessary to protect current and future generations.
Moving towards Polio eradication
Without eradication of polio, the virus can spread across borders, and the number of paralysed children will rise again and be crippled by a disease we have the means to stop. There is no cure for polio; it can only be prevented. The polio vaccine, given multiple times, can protect a child for life. If we fail with polio eradication, the world could begin to see up to 200,000 new cases annually within the next ten years.