WHO Declares Africa Free Of ‘Wild’ Cases of Polio
Chalk up a major win for global health: according to the World Health Organization, Africa has been free of wild cases of Polio since July. This comes down to a dedicated vaccination campaign that has advanced the continent towards zero cases.
This news doesn’t mean that the continent is completely free if the disease. Africa is still a little ways from zero cases: WHO reports that there’s still some ongoing work in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia, but that in each case, the transmission of the illness has been interrupted. On August 11th, 2014, Somalia reported its last case, and in July, according to the WHO, the final country to report zero cases was Nigeria.
The director of the Polio Global Eradication Initiative, Dr Hamid Jafari, Director, indicated that while the continent was free of wild cases of the disease, there are still challenges when it comes to eradicating the disease completely.
The elimination of the disease from much of the world thus far is the product of a dedicated and time-consuming vaccination campaign.
With the introduction of vaccines in 1955, instances of the illness fell to fewer than 10 in the 1970s, and that as of 1979, no cases of Polio have been transmitted within the country’s borders. India was the last major country in the world to report cases in 2011, and around the world, concentrated polio vaccine campaigns have pushed the illness back from human populations.
The goal of the Initiative has been to interrupt the natural transmission (wild cases) of the virus, which seems to be the case so far. The next step, according to WHO, will be to continue to monitor the region for additional cases. If none appear in the next two years, the continent will be certified Polio-Free.