October 24 is also known as the World Polio Day, which is marked to highlight the global efforts toward a polio-free world. The day also honours the contributions of those on the frontlines in the fight to eradicate the polio virus from every corner of the globe.
The day also encourages a widespread use of safe and effective vaccines to curb the poliomyelitis, commonly known as polio. It is expected to become the second human disease ever to be eradicated after smallpox.
According to the World Health Organisation, polio cases have decreased by over 99% since 1988, from an estimated 350,000 cases to 22 reported cases in 2017. This drastic reduction is the result of the global effort to eradicate the disease. In 2020, only three countries in the world have reported the transmission of polio, which are Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.
World Polio Day celebrates this progress and the people, volunteers, and local health workers, who make it possible by getting their own children vaccinated. It also honours the people working to reach every last child until no child’s future is threatened by the crippling impact of this disease.
Poliomyelitis is a highly infectious viral disease that mostly affects children under the age of five. It is transmitted by person-to-person spread mainly through the faecal-oral route. It can also be transmitted less frequently by a common source like contaminated water or food. The virus then multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system and cause paralysis.
A resolution was adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1988 for the worldwide eradication of polio under which the Global Polio Eradication Initiative was launched. Spearheaded by national governments, the WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UNICEF, and even the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance became an essential part of it in later years.
The poliovirus has three strains (type 1, type 2 and type 3), wild poliovirus type 2 was eradicated in 1999 and no further case of wild poliovirus type 3 has been found since it was last reported in Nigeria in November 2012. Both type 2 and type 3 strains have officially been declared as globally eradicated.