The 25th of August marks the first anniversary of a milestone that took over 30 years to achieve. Africa being free from polio – a disease that has caused death and paralysis throughout recorded history. Nigeria, which accounted for more than half of global cases less than a decade ago, was the final African country with no more cases of ‘wild’ polio.
No wild polio, that is polio cases caused by the natural ‘wild type’ form of the virus, has been detected in Africa since 2016. On 25 August 2020, the continent was declared free of wild poliovirus. This leaves only two countries on the globe – Pakistan and Afghanistan – where wild polio is found.
Despite the efforts of health programmes around the world, there is still a threat that polio could spread again. Even one case would constitute an international event, writes Melinda Suchard and Wayne Howard for The Conversation. Experts argue that governments and global polio programme health ministers must make new commitments in the cause to end polio in all its forms for good.
Polio is a viral illness that can cause sudden weakness, permanent paralysis, or death in people who were previously healthy and had no risk factors or comorbidities. It usually affects children. The virus is spread by faecally contaminated food and water or close contact.