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Polio eradication: The show must go on

Once one of the most feared diseases worldwide which was responsible for paralysing many children, polio has been contained to a large extent. There are with only three epidemic regions left in the world Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. India, which only a decade ago accounted for most of the world's cases hasn't reported a new case in the last two years. A joint initiative between the WHO, various governments and multiple private partners, it represents the world's largest and most successful private-public partnership (PPP) initiative. The goal is to obviously eradicate the disease completely like rhinderpest and small pox. For that every last child must get the polio vaccine. Here are some facts about the polio eradication campaign:

Polio-nigeria

Once one of the most feared diseases worldwide which was responsible for paralysing many children, polio has been contained to a large extent. There are with only three epidemic countries left in the world Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. India, which only a decade ago accounted for most of the world's cases hasn't reported a new case in the last two years. A joint initiative between the WHO, various governments and multiple private partners, the polio eradication campaign represents the world's largest and most successful private-public partnership (PPP) initiative. The goal is to obviously eradicate the disease completely like rhinderpest and small pox. For that every last child must get the polio vaccine. Here are some facts about the polio eradication campaign:

Polio continues to paralyse children

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While polio is a distant memory in most of the world, the disease still exists in some places and mainly affects children under five. 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.

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%.

There are just three countries which have never stopped transmission of polio

The three 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.

Unlike most diseases, polio can be completely eradicated

There are three 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.

Cheap and effective vaccines are available to prevent polio

There are two 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.

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 more than 2.5 billion children over the past 20 years.

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. In just one round of the national immunization days in India there are 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.

Every child must be vaccinated to eradicate polio

This includes those living in the most remote and/or underserved places on the planet. 'Days of Tranquility' are negotiated so that vaccination teams can reach children living in conflict zones. All manner of transport is used from donkeys to motorbikes to helicopters to reach children in remote areas or difficult terrain.

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.

We can eradicate polio

In the last 20 years only one child was paralysed due to polio in the Americas. The WHO Western Pacific Region was declared polio free in 2000 and the WHO European Region in 2002. India one of the most polio-endemic regions in the world hasn't reported a new polio case in two years. The world could be freed of the threat of polio - with everyone's commitment, from parent to government worker and political leader to the international community.

Source: World Health Organisation

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