GENEVA, Switzerland – Polio is a disease that mainly affects children under the age of five years old. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in every 200 cases of it will lead to paralysis. Of these infections, five percent to 10 percent will die, as their breathing muscles become immobilized.
Polio is spread through human to human contact, entering the human body through the mouth and regenerating in the intestine. It is then spread to the environment through means of fecal matter, which can become lethal to an entire congregation of people in communities with poor hygiene or sanitation.
As of 2013, only Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan remain vexed by the poliomyelitis virus.
However, although a majority of the world has successfully managed to eradicate this deadly illness, the risk of importation still poses a serious threat. Polio importation is especially dangerous to the countries of West Africa to the Horn of Africa.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) has classified importation countries as those which have stopped transmitting the indigenous wild polio virus, but are still vulnerable to infection. Such a classification was clearly illustrated in 2010, when various countries were affected by importation outbreaks. However, any country is susceptible to this disease until it is entirely eradicated.
A failure to completely destroy polio, according to the WHO, could potentially result in up to 200,000 new cases of it globally every year within a ten-year span. One of the most devastating aspects of this disease is that there is no cure once acquired. As such, it can only be prevented.
One way of doing so is vaccination since once a child is given the polio vaccine a number of times, they become protected from the virus for the rest of their lives. In fact, since 1988, there has been a 99 percent decrease in polio instances around the world.
Though there were roughly 350,000 circumstances of the disease in over 125 countries since the late 1980’s as of 2012, there were only 223 reported cases. Further good news is that the disease is currently down to its smallest geographic record in history.
The GPEI was launched to adopt a resolution for the international obliteration of the polio virus and since the GPEI’s launch in 1988, only three countries remain affected by the virus.
Due to the progress that GPEI has made, “today more than 10 million individuals are walking, who may have otherwise been paralyzed.” Also, from their efforts, an estimated 1.5 million childhood deaths have been avoided.
For the countries that have not seen polio disappear, the issue is a pressing one. So pressing, in fact, that the World Health Assembly adopted a resolution in May of 2012 that plans to completely eradicate the disease by the year 2018.
In reaction to this effort, the three remaining countries began national polio emergency action plans. At the beginning of 2013, “the lowest number of reported cases in fewer districts of fewer countries,” showed immediate results.
The new Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013-2018 is the first plan that aims to wipe out all types of polio disease concurrently. To further the cause, philanthropists and leading global figures have pledged a combined total of $5.5 billion over the next six years. Additionally, they committed another $1.5 billion necessary to secure an enduring polio-free world.
This not only demonstrates the faith that is instilled in this plan, but the support that will allow it to be successful.
The three countries that currently suffer from polio are not the only ones who would benefit from its eradication. Economic modeling shows the United States would save between $40 billion to $50 billion over the next 20 years in various aspects. More importantly to keep in mind is no small child would ever again suffer from the debilitation of polio or polio-paralysis.
– Samaria Garrett