Africa achieved no polio case for a year – No new case of wild polio reported in the African continent since more than a year.
For the first time, Africa has achieved a year without any new case of wild polio and the continent is on course to be declared a polio free zone. But it will be too early to celebrate the landmark because three years must lapse without a new infection for a region to be announced polio-free. No cases have been reported in the any African nation since 11 August last year, an 18-month-old toddler was reported in the northern province of Mudug in Somalia.
“It is extremely encouraging and demonstrates real progress. However, it must also be taken within context, and with caution,” said Dr. Hamid Jafari, head of the World Health Organization’s polio eradication wing. The global effort to eradicate the disease began in 1998 when more than 350,000 infections of polio were recorded across the globe in about 125 countries. The Gates Foundation and Rotary International are among the biggest contributors to polio eradication.
After the data verification, Nigeria is likely to be dropped from the list of polio-endemic countries, leaving only two other nations Afghanistan and Pakistan. The authorities fear that insecurity in northern Nigeria might prove a major setback in the quest to eradicate the disease. Somalia had gone for six years without a polio case when the capital Mogadishu saw an outbreak in May 2013, that sparked a nationwide vaccination campaign. Somalia reported no polio case this year as compared to last year’s 198 recorded infections. Many health experts have called it a remarkable achievement for the epidemic regions.
Poliomyelitis widely known as polio is an infectious disease caused by the poliovirus, which belongs to Picornaviridae family. The disease was first recognized in 1789 and the microorganism that causes it was identified more than a century later in 1908. The virus invades the nervous system and may cause irreversible paralysis.
The infection usually spread from person to person through infected feces, contaminated water, and less likely from infected saliva. Polio vaccine can prevent the disease however a number of doses are required for it to be effective. In 2013, nearly 400 people reported to have the infection as compared to 350,000 cases in 1998.
Next two years will determine whether Africa will be able to make it to the list of polio-free declared regions such as Americas, Europe and South-East Asia. IMAGE/AP