World Polio Day 2017: One Day. One Focus: Ending Polio

World Polio Day 2017: One Day. One Focus: Ending Polio

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Highlights:

  • The World Polio Day was established by Rotary International and is celebrated on the 24th of October every year
  • Today, polio is endemic only in three countries - Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria, and intensive efforts are on to eliminate the disease from these countries
  • India has been declared polio-free four years ago, after well-coordinated and dedicated efforts of individuals, communities, the government, non-government and international agencies.
The World Polio Day was established by the Rotary International and is celebrated on the 24th of October every year. The current focus in the world is to end polio and prevent crippling in children due to the disease.
World Polio Day 2017: One Day. One Focus: Ending Polio

Polio, a viral disease of childhood that causes paralysis, is at the brink of eradication today. The widespread and organized use of the two polio vaccines, the oral Sabin vaccine and the injectable Salk vaccine with the support of governments as well as of non-government organizations all over the world have demonstrated that health issues can well be controlled through a dedicated and coordinated approach by different sectors.

Eradication of polio is necessary to enable children to lead better lives. Polio is caused by a virus often found in unhygienic conditions that are spread through the feco-oral route. It causes irreparable damage to the affected person. Since it affects the nervous system, it paralyses the child, usually less than 5 years of age, who often has to depend on crutches for the rest of his/her life. The legs become thin and wasted. As the child grows into a disabled adult, the ability to work is restricted, which can have a huge economic impact on the country.

Since polio does not have a cure, the only way to deal with it is to get children vaccinated on a regular basis. Since the virus does not last outside the human body for much time, it is one of the diseases where eradication is possible. Additional doses of vaccination are often recommended and administered through mass campaigns. The programs also check children for other health issues like vitamin deficiencies and measles, thus ensuring better health.

The impact of preventive measures for polio has been huge. Today, 16 million people are walking who may have been paralyzed, had polio not been controlled. These people who would otherwise have been a burden, now contribute to a huge extent to the global economy.

The results of the polio eradication campaign are a reflection of the dedicated efforts of numerous organizations the world over. The number of polio cases had come down by a staggering 99.9% since 1988, when the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) was established. Among the three strains of the wild poliovirus, the type 2 virus was eradicated in 1998, while cases caused by the type 3 wild poliovirus have not been detected anywhere in the world since 2012. Today, polio is endemic only in three countries - Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Efforts have been stepped up in these countries to reach out to all the children at risk and eradicate the disease.

Even though the infection is present only in a small part of the world, there is always a danger that it could re-emerge if the vaccination programs are relaxed. Statistics reveal that if polio is not eradicated, around 200,000 children could get paralyzed every year within ten years. Till polio is completely eradicated, any child in the world is at risk of getting infected with the virus.

India was once considered as a country where polio eradication would be difficult. However, India has shown the world that nothing is impossible when individuals, communities, government and non-government organizations and international organizations come together - the entire South-East Asia along with India has been declared polio-free in 2014. The last polio case in India was reported in 2011. This was a remarkable achievement considering the fact that in 2009, India reported 741 cases, which were more cases than any other country in the world. However, polio vaccination in India has to be continued intensively as it is being done currently, especially since polio exists in the neighboring countries. The injectable vaccine has now been introduced along with the oral polio vaccine, to prevent rare cases of vaccine-derived polio, which could occur with the oral vaccine.

If polio is indeed eradicated, it will be just the second viral infection after smallpox to achieve the status.

Reference:

  1. World Polio Day - (https:www.endpolio.org/world-polio-day)

Source: Medindia

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