Africa is now free of Polio after decades of hard work in the best health news in a while.
With the world waking up to the reality of a new potentially long-term killer disease, the defeat of one is a welcome step forward for humanity.
Victory at last!
The World Health Organization declared the polio virus defeated on the continent its partners, Rotary International.
“Today’s victory over the wild poliovirus in the African region is a testament to what can happen when partners from a variety of sectors join forces to accomplish a major global health goal,” John Hewko, CEO of Rotary International said, calling the eradication something that the world should aspire to ‘during these hard times.’
The African Regional Certification Commission also confirmed the news.
Poliomyelitis is a paralysing disease that has been endemic in many parts of the world for years. It mostly affects children under five years and can be fatal if the illness affects the CNS.
In the 1980s Polio was in 125 countries, infecting and killing over 350,000 children per year.
A cure for the disease has never been found. However, an effective vaccine is what has effectively ended polio infections, with the vaccine giving life-time immunity.
The disease is now only present in two countries, Pakistan and Afghanistan, where it has infected 102 children this year.
Cautious progress forward
Africa reported the last case of wild Polio infections in Nigeria in 2016.
Conflict involving the Boko Haram made reaching report parts of Nigeria hard to reach, particularly Borno State, where the disease became endemic.
However, since then, the country has not reported any new cases of the illness, with immunization against the disease in Africa now standing at 95 per cent.
However, despite the victory, there is a vaccine-derived poliovirus in circulation. This polio virus mutated from the oral dose of the immunization and remains present in several countries. The strain spreads easily in under-immunized populations.