Polio: Nearly eradicated but still paralyzes children worldwide
Polio recently left 17 children paralyzed in Syria. Why does it remain to be a global concern? Here's what you need to know.
17 children were left paralyzed by an outbreak of Polio in war-torn Syria recently, reports the New York Times.
Despite the efforts of humanitarian organizations to help vaccinate the children of Syria, their security becomes a concern. Those who do make it into the area, face different challenges altogether.
The last Polio outbreak was reported in 2013.
“These vaccine-derived outbreaks really are a marker of poor vaccination and poor sanitation in the community,” Dr. Homer Venters, director of programs at Physicians for Human Rights, told the New York Times.
The World Health Organization defines Polio as “a highly infectious viral disease, which mainly affects young children. The virus is transmitted by person-to-person spread mainly through the fecal-oral route or, less frequently, by a common vehicle (e.g. contaminated water or food) and multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system and can cause paralysis.”
One in 200 cases of Polio results in permanent leg paralysis. Those under the age of 5 are most at risk for contracting the disease, which has no known cure. The only way to fight it is through immunization, or the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV), which has been known to reduce infections by 99%.
Thanks to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), 3 billion children worldwide have been vaccinated since they launched their efforts back in 1998.
Though the Philippines was declared Polio-free in 2000, there are many other parts of the world, specifically countries with weak health systems, that are still fighting to eradicate it.
Polio remains endemic in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. As of 2015, cases have also been reported all over Africa.
Though OPV has been the main weapon against Polio, Rappler reports that there have been rare cases when it was the cause of the infection as a result of “genetic reversion” or “vaccine-derived virus.”
At least one dose of Inactivated polio vaccine (IPV), which doesn’t only weaken but kills Polio, is recommended to hasten the fight against Polio, as part of the GPEI’s Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan.
“To eradicate polio, we must first create an immunity umbrella. IPV is that new tool in the global eradication of polio,” Dr T. John Jacob, chairman of the Child Health Foundation in India told Rappler. “Our endgame is to eradicate polio by 2018.”
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