One strain of polio, which was one of the leading killers of children, has been wiped out – thanks to “global vaccination effort.”
On Thursday, which is marked as the World Polio Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the worldwide eradication of type 3 poliovirus.
To declare full eradication of polio, all the types (1,2 and 3) of polio strains should stop circulating. Although virologically distinct, all three types of polio can lead to serious symptoms, such as paralysis and even death.
The WHO declares the eradication of polio when the virus is not detected for more than three years.
Type 2 poliovirus was eradicated in 2015, while the last cases of type 3 poliovirus were seen in Nigeria in 2012.
Chair of the independent Global Commission for the Certification of Poliomyelitis Eradication David Salisbury said, “It (type 3 poliovirus eradication) is a significant achievement that should reinvigorate the eradication process and provides motivation for the final step — the eradication of wild poliovirus type 1.”
Now, only type 1 polio strain is at large – in Pakistan and Afghanistan. If that is eradicated, polio will be wiped off the face of the earth, along with smallpox. The eradication of type 3 poliovirus has been a great global health success.
The Polio Global Eradication Initiative phased out the polio vaccine in 2016, switching to a much safer oral vaccine. The polio outbreaks, which are occurring now, were seen before the switch. Therefore, there still are some challenges in spite of all the efforts in eradicating polio.
In India, the disease was eradicated in 2014. Nigeria is now polio-free for three years, with no evidence of wild poliovirus. Now, the aim is to eradicate polio by 2023. WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “The achievement of polio eradication will be a milestone for global health. We remain fully committed to ensuring that all necessary resources are made available to eradicate all poliovirus strains.”