How The World Plans To Finally Eradicate The Once Dreaded Polio Disease #EndPolioNow

From about an estimated 350,000 cases worldwide as at 1988 to 22 reported cases in 2017, the world is on the verge of finally eradicating the once dreaded Polio disease. More commonly known as Poliomyelitis in clinical circles, the potentially paralytic disease is caused by the Polio virus and is known to affect mainly children under 5 years of age, mainly through person-to-person spread via the infected stool contaminated hand-to-mouth route, causing symptoms that range from: unexplained tiredness, vomiting, headache, fever, stiffness in the neck to severe pain in the legs and irreversible paralysis amongst an unlucky few. The end spectrum of severity for 5% to 10% of paralytic cases as stated in World Health Organisation(WHO) Factsheets is death, mainly from paralysis of respiratory muscles responsible for the process of breathing. The disease condition currently has no cure till date and as a result of the death toll from several epidemics around various parts of the world in the past, as well as the devastating effect on affected families, concerned Organisations spearheaded by WHO, The Global Polio Eradication Initiative(GPEI) formed in 1988 and The Rotary Club International, came to a consensus that, as a global village we must "END POLIO NOW" but what's the plan?  

As a result of major breakthroughs with the scientific research work of Dr Jonas Salk in 1952 and Albert Sabin in 1961, it became clear to the world that, in the absence of any cure, prevention of new infections by vaccination of children from birth was the best way forward. Though 125 countries were said to be affected by significant disease spread in 1988, with concerted efforts mainly through vaccination and public health education, only 3 countries were confirmed to have recurrent incidences of new cases as at 2013: Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Strains of the Polio virus were knocked off the face of the earth one after the other until, all we need to finally wipe out now is the recalcitrant Type 1,as shown in the GPEI illustration below.
Courtesy: Global Polio Eradication Initiative 👀: polioeradication.org

If the clear answer to the puzzle was vaccination of children to prevent spread and thus new cases, why did the condition linger in some parts of Nigeria for instance? What is going on in Pakistan? Is the crisis in Afghanistan part of the challenge there? I spoke with the Chairman of the Nigerian National Polio Plus Committee of Rotary International, Dr. Abdulrahman Tunji Funsho, in a live Television interview aired from the studios of the Nigerian Television Authority(NTA) Lagos Network Centre in 2016 and at the end of the conversation, I could deduce that one of the major problems in Nigeria to be specific was tribal myths propagated by community leaders especially in the North, that immunisation was evil.  Thankfully, all of that is now a thing of the past as no new cases have been detected in Nigeria for over 1 year now and the country is heading for the final eradication declaration if things remain status quo.

We cannot say immunisation coverage in Nigeria is 100% yet, talk less of  the other 2 countries in which the disease is still endemic and the challenge for many parents is cooperation from their children. The WHO illustration below is a summary of "how to soothe a child during vaccination/immunisation". We hope it helps parents out there who still find it difficult to get their children vaccinated, not just against polio virus but every other potentially infective disease that has a preventive vaccine. Our children must be adequately immunised for age, except where there are genuine medical contraindications.

The 24th of October has been set aside by Rotary International for annual commemoration of World Polio Day to celebrate Jonas Salk for the great discovery of a vaccine that works and to share more information as well as create global awareness towards the fact that we must all participate in the efforts to #EndPolioNow. For more information about Polio/Poliomyelitis, the history of the disease and global efforts towards final eradication, refer to the references below.

REFERENCES:
WHO|Poliomyelitis

BBC|History Of Polio

POLIO|GLOBAL ERADICATION INITIATIVE: Polio Today

ROTARY|END POLIO NOW: World Polio Day 2018