Proof of importance of vaccinations: Second of three strains of polio eradicated worldwide

An Indian child receives polio vaccine drops on National Immunisation Day in Guwahati in March

Health chiefs announce the second of three strains of polio has been eradicated four years after the first was wiped out

  • Wild polio virus type 3 (WPV3) officially wiped out after no new cases since 2012
  • Comes four years after wild polio virus type 2 (WPV2) was eradicated in 2015
  • Type 1 is still circulating and infecting in two countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan

The fight to eradicate polio was given a major boost today as health officials announced a second of three strains of the virus had been wiped out. 

Wild polio virus type 3, also known as WPV3, is now the third human disease-causing pathogen to be eradicated worldwide in history.

It comes after wild polio virus type 2 (WPV2) was declared wiped out in 2015 and smallpox in 1980.

Polio spreads in vulnerable populations in areas where there is no immunity and sanitation is poor. 

The incurable virus invades the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis within hours. Infection can be prevented by vaccination.

An Indian child receives polio vaccine drops on National Immunisation Day in Guwahati in March

A dramatic reduction in case numbers worldwide in recent decades has been largely due to intense national and regional immunisation campaigns in children.

The last case of polio type 3 was detected in northern Nigeria in 2012, and global health officials have since been conducting intense surveillance to ensure it has gone.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) said in a statement today: ‘With no wild poliovirus type 3 detected anywhere in the world since 2012, the Global Commission for the Certification of Poliomyelitis Eradication is anticipated to officially declare this strain as globally eradicated.’  

The success in ending type 3 means that only type 1 of the wild virus is still circulating and causing infections.

Polio type 1 is endemic in two countries – Afghanistan and Pakistan – but efforts to wipe it out have faced setbacks in the past two years.

After reaching a historic low of only 22 cases of wild polio infection in 2017, the virus has caused 72 cases in Pakistan and Afghanistan already this year. 

The first target date for ending polio was set in 1988 by the GPEI, a partnership of the World Health Organization (WHO), the health charity Rotary International and others, which had aimed to eradicate it by 2000.

GPEI said, however, that this week’s declaration of the end of WPV3 was a ‘significant milestone’.

Carol Pandak, director of Rotary’s PolioPlus program, said it proves that a polio-free world is achievable.

‘Even as the polio program addresses major challenges, we’re making important headway in other areas,’ she said. 

The most recent outbreak of polio occurred in the Philippines in September, nearly two decades after it was declared free of the highly contagious and potentially deadly disease.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said today that authorities have confirmed at least one case of polio in a three-year-old girl in southern Lanao del Sur province.

They have also detected the polio virus in sewage in Manila and in waterways in the southern Davao region.

Those findings are enough to declare an outbreak of the crippling disease in a previously polio-free country like the Philippines, he said.

The World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund expressed deep concern over polio’s reemergence in the country. 

WHAT IS POLIO? THE INCURABLE VIRUS THAT INVADES THE NERVOUS SYSTEM AND CAUSES IRREVERSIBLE PARALYSIS IN HOURS

History

In the early 20th century, polio was one of the most feared diseases in industrialised countries, paralysing hundreds of thousands of children every year. 

Soon after the introduction of effective vaccines in the 1950s and 1960s however, polio was brought under control and practically eliminated as a public health problem in these countries. 

Symptoms:

Polio, or poliomyelitis, is a deadly infectious disease that is caused by the poliovirus. 

It is spread from human-to-human contact. 

Once someone has the virus, it invades into their brain or spinal cord and causes paralysis. 

Most people (about every 72 out of 100 cases) won’t experience any visible symptoms. 

The others might experience: 

  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Head ache 
  • Stomach pain

More severe symptoms include paralysis of the body and meningitis. 

Treatment: 

There is no cure for polio once someone has been infected. 

A polio vaccine is available and recommended for all people to take to prevent them from contracting the disease.

Prevalence of the disease is now uncommon and it is almost totally eradicated in many parts around the world.  

A negative pressure ventilator, often referred to colloquially as an ‘Iron Lung’, is a nearly-obsolete mechanical respirator.

It enables a person to breathe on their own in a normal manner, when muscle control is lost, or the work of breathing exceeds the person’s ability.

They were created in the 1930s to help Polio sufferers and are now very rare. 

Some people still require them in order to survive but this has become increasingly uncommon. 

However, those that do rely on the mechanical respirator are totally dependent on their mechanical exterior.   

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention