Polio is a disease that ravaged the world's population in the first half of the 20th century. Mostly children were struck with this highly contagious paralyzing disease. About 5 -10 percent of these children died from suffocation when their breathing muscles became paralyzed.
After the vaccine became available in 1962, the disease was eradicated in 99 percent of the world. However, there is still 1 percent of the world's population, which includes the poorest and most vulnerable areas in developing countries, where polio can still be transmitted.
Polio mainly affects children under the age of five. It will cause irreversible paralysis in 1 out of every 200 cases. The numbers of people who are affected by polio have gone down significantly in the last few decades.
The World Health Organization's statistics show the number of people affected are down 99 percent from 1988 when the Global Polio Eradication Fund was created. Back in 1988, over 350,000 people were affected each year.
Due to collective efforts, over 2.5 billion children have been immunized in the last 20 years, but there are still pockets of the world where polio continues to have a stronghold.
There are three countries where the transmission of polio cases have never stopped.
Polio has a stronghold in Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan because of a variety of issues including lack of vaccines, political insecurity, poor sanitation and weak health symptoms. These endemic countries can spread polio to children in neighboring countries, especially those with inadequate vaccination access and policies.
The good news is that polio can be eradicated. It does not live outside the human body for very long and it hasn't mutated beyond the three strains of the disease. If the virus can't find an unvaccinated person to infect, it will die, as happened to the Type 2 strain, eradicated on 1999.
Vaccinations are the key to finally eradicating this disease. The oral vaccine can be administered by volunteers so no doctors are needed, and it costs as little as 11 cents per dose.
Both private and public organizations are coordinating their efforts to immunize the vulnerable populations. The effort to eradicate polio is the largest public-private partnership for public health as well as the largest internationally-coordinated public health effort ever.
From the world's top governments including the United States, to the United Nations [email protected] initiative, to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, many entities have come together cooperatively to get rid of this disease.
Everyday citizens, including more than 20 million volunteers worldwide, are working to eradicate polio. For those looking to get involved and help in the eradication efforts, visit [email protected] online for some easy steps just about anyone can take.
WHO.com. Web. 14 October 2013. "Polio Facts."
Shotatlife.com. Web. 14 October 2013. "Get involved."
Reviewed October 15, 2013
Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith