Today is World Polio Day(WPD), a day set aside by the United Nations(UN) to mark the onset of globalized and multilateral efforts to eradicate the disease which over the years, since 1789 when it was first recognized as a distinct condition by Michael Underwood has had a devastating and deleterious consequences on human lives, particularly with severe afflictions on young children who carry the stigma of decapitation for the rest of their lives.
Humanity has not rested with concerted efforts at all fronts in the health sector, with support from individuals and organizations, as well as among scientists who launched a war of extermination against the polio virus, first identified in 1908 by Karl Landsteeiner. With major outbreaks occurring in the late 19th century in Europe and the United States and a worrying childhood diseases in the 20th century, it was only a matter of time that efforts at mitigating the onslaught of the virus started yielding results.
It was a major breakthrough in the 1950s when Jonas Salk developed the first polio vaccine and expectedly achieved far reaching results in preventing the spread of the virus on much larger scale with efforts geared at early detection of cases to achieve global eradication. There were however, projections of global eradication of the disease by the year 2018, just three years to drawing of the curtain in the concerted war against the virus.
Notably in 2013, with global gains already made in the fight to eradicate the virus, reports of new cases emerged in Africa, Asia and the Middle East which prompted the World Health Organization(WHO) in 2014 to declare a public health emergency of international concern due to the outbreak.
It is to be noted that the polio virus in its attacks on children of childhood age show no symptom and result in permanent disability and sometime death. Significantly with the vaccines, Inactivated Polio Vaccine(IPV) and the Oral Polio Vaccine(OPV), given as an injection in the leg or arm, depending on age in the case of IPV and taken by mouth(orally) in the case of OPV, the eradication of the virus from the midst of humanity is already an established success.
It is of concern, however, that there was an interruption of transmission of the wild polio virus for 14 months. But of the 3 strains of wild polio virus(type1, type 2 and type 3), wild polio virus type 2 was eradicated in 1999, with significant reduction in cases of type 3 and no cases reported since November 2012 in Nigeria.
Credit go to WHO which in 1988 during the 41st World Health Assembly adopted a resolution for the worldwide eradication of polio, commencing the launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative(GPEI), with support of key partners,Rotary International, UNICEF, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), and governments across the world whose combined synergy have brought down the number of reported cases with over 99 per cent success. Only 2 countries in the world remain polio endemic, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
In our local environment, the war against polio eradication is as intense as ever with campaigns mounted by Rotary clubs in Edo in conjunction with the ministry of Health, UNICEF, WHO, National Primary Healthcare Development Agency expected to flag off the World Polio Day today,Friday,October23,2015. Rotary International as a major player in the campaign has contributednearly$1.2 billion dollars and countless volunteer hours to the protection of more thantwo billion children in 122 countries.