Gains and Losses in Polio Eradication

In February of 2012 the World Health Organization removed India from the list of countries endemic with Polio, one of the great global health achievements of the year. Since 1988 the incidence of polio has decreased by 99% and there were only 223 cases of polio reported in 2012. Only 6 of these cases came from countries other than the three remaining endemic countries. Globally, this is the lowest number of cases in a 1 year period in 10 years.

Despite being removed from the list of endemic countries, strenuous surveillance programs and large-scale vaccination campaigns continue in India to make sure transmission isn’t reestablished. Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan are the remaining three countries with transmission of the wild poliovirus and Nigeria and Pakistan are considered to be the two countries that will present the biggest challenge to complete polio eradication.

Angola, Chad, and the Democratic Republic of Congo are three countries with previously eliminated polio that showed transmission in 2012, accounting for the 6 cases mentioned above. The reestablishment of transmission in these three countries has some worried that the time for completely eradicating polio may have passed and that polio could come back in full force. Thus, the continued efforts to eradicate polio are of heightened importance. According to Dr. Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control, “’If we fail to get over the finish line, we will need to continue expensive control measures for the indefinite future…More importantly, without eradication, a resurgence of polio could paralyze more than 200,000 children worldwide every year within a decade.”’

Read the CDC update here: