The 24th of October has been declared by UNICEF partner Rotary International as the World Polio Day in order to commemorate the birth of Jonas Salk who led the first team to develop a vaccine against poliomyelitis.
Poliomyelitis, also known as polio, is a highly infectious disease that is caused by a virus and affects mostly young children, under the age of 5. The virus is transmitted by person-to-person and spread mainly through the faecal-oral route. Initial symptoms of polio include weakness, fever, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck and pain in the legs and arms. In some cases, approximately 1 out of 200 infections, the disease leads to paralysis, which is often permanent and affects mainly the legs.
There is no cure for polio only immunization through vaccination.
There is no cure for polio. The disease can only be prevented by immunization, and antibiotics and analgesics are merely supportive measures.
In order to achieve immunization, there are two types of vaccine. The first one is the inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV), that was developed in 1952 by Jonas Salk and his team at the University of Pittsburgh. The second one is the oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV) that was developed by Albert Sabin.
According to CDC
a person is considered to be fully immunized if he or she has received a primary series of at least three doses of inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV), live oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV), or four doses of any combination of IPV and OPV.
In 1988, UNICEF, WHO, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), various national governments, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rotary International and other partners combined their efforts in order to ensure oral polio vaccine would be made available for every child around the world. As a result, polio cases have decreased by over 99% since 1988, as shown by WHO data, from 350.000 cases back then to 74 reported ones in 2015.
The aim, now, is to eradicate the disease and for that, a new plan has been developed, called “Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013-2018”.