At a celebration event at the headquarters of the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, Professor David Salisbury, chair of the independent Global Commission for the Certification of Poliomyelitis Eradication, presented the official certificate of WPV3 eradication to Dr Adhanom Ghebreyesus. But type 1virus is still circulating in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Polio usually affects children under five. The WHO estimates one in 200 cases leads to irreversible paralysis. There is no cure but the polio vaccine protects children for life.
A polio patient
Children who do get immunized are given a weakened form of the polio virus so their body can build up immunity to the disease. Speaking on World Polio Day, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, said: “The eradication of wild polio virus type 3 is a major milestone towards a polio-free world – but we cannot relax.” There are currently outbreaks of vaccine-derived polio virus in 12 countries: Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria, Togo and Zambia. The polio eradication efforts have saved the world more than US$27 billion in health costs since 1988. A sustained polio-free world will generate further US$14 billion in savings by 2050, compared to the cost countries would incur for controlling the virus indefinitely.