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WHO’s Long Fight to Eradicate Polio from the Planet on World Polio Day

October 24 is celebrated as World Polio Day every year in the honour of Jonas Salk who led the first team to develop a vaccine for Polio. The day aims to raise awareness about the infectious disease.

October 24th is celebrated as World Polio Day to raise the awareness about the infectious disease Poliomyelitis, commonly known as Polio.

The day was established by Roary International over a decade ago to commemorate the birth of Jonas Salk, who led the first team to develop a vaccine against the disease.

As per the information available on the website of World Health Organisation (WHO), the use of this inactivated poliovirus vaccine and subsequent widespread use of the oral poliovirus, developed by Albert Sabin, led to the establishment of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) in 1988.

Since 1988, GPEI had reduced polio worldwide by 99 per cent.

Poliomyelitis or Polio

WHO describes polio as a crippling and potentially fatal infectious viral disease for which there is no cure, but there are safe and effective vaccines for its prevention. It mainly affects children under five years of age and has a crippling effect.

Polio vaccine, given multiple times, almost always protects a child for life. The strategy to eradicate polio is therefore based on preventing infection by immunizing every child until transmission stops and the world is polio-free.

The virus is transmitted by person-to-person spread mainly through the faecal-oral route or, less frequently, by a common vehicle (for example, contaminated water or food) and multiplies in the intestine. Initial symptoms are fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness of the neck and pain in the limbs.

One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis. Among those paralysed, 5 per cent to 10 per cent die when their breathing muscles become immobilised.

Some facts about Polio

* In India, the last case of polio was reported in January 2011.

* The countries that are still affected are Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

* Since the past one year, Nigeria hasn’t reported a case and if this continues to progress, then Nigeria would be declared a polio-free nation

* In 2012, India was struck off the list of polio endemic countries and later in 2014, India, along with other countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan, Indonesia, Maldives, Nepal etc, were announced polio-free.

* Polio is one of the two major diseases which are subject to global eradication. The other one is Guinea worm disease

* In the history of mankind, we have been able to eradicate two diseases smallpox and rinderpest.

* From an estimated 350,000 cases in 1988 to 37 reported cases in 2016, polio cases have decreased by over 99 per cent

* As a result of the global effort to eradicate the disease, more than 16 million people have been saved from paralysis.

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