Does Polio still exist?


Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious viral disease, which mainly affects young children. The virus is transmitted through contaminated food and water, and multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system. Many infected people have no symptoms, but do excrete the virus in their faeces, hence transmitting infection to others.

Initial symptoms of polio include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck, and pain in the limbs. In a small proportion of cases, the disease causes paralysis, which is often permanent. Polio can only be prevented by immunization.

Polio does still exist, although polio cases have decreased by over 99% since 1988, from an estimated more than 350 000 cases to 406 reported cases in 2013. This reduction is the result of the global effort to eradicate the disease. Today, only 3 countries in the world have never stopped transmission of polio (Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan).

Despite the progress achieved since 1988, as long as a single child remains infected with poliovirus, children in all countries are at risk of contracting the disease. The poliovirus can easily be imported into a polio-free country and can spread rapidly amongst unimmunized populations. Failure to eradicate polio could result in as many as 200 000 new cases every year, within 10 years, all over the world.

People most at risk

Polio mainly affects children under 5 years of age.

Prevention

There is no cure for polio, it can only be prevented. Polio vaccine, given multiple times, can protect a child for life....

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