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Africa declared the total eradication of wild poliovirus

Africa declared the total eradication of wild poliovirus

BY Sarah 1 Dec,2020 Poliovirus Africa


According to the news report, after decades of vaccination campaigns, Africa was free of wild poliovirus.

In a WHO video conference held on 25th August, an independent group called ARCC for poliovirus eradication announced the above news. Nigeria is the latest of 47 countries in the WHO’s Africa region to eliminate the virus, four years after its last case of wild poliovirus.

Polio is caused by three different strains of poliovirus, which sometimes attack nerve cells in the spine, causing patients partially or completely paralysed. The CDC says most people infected with the virus do not become paralysed, but those who become paralysed become permanently disabled or die because the muscles that sustain breathing are also paralysed by the disease.


According to the CDC, people can get poliovirus from contact with the faeces of infected people, or from contaminated food, water and things that encounter the mouth. Less commonly, the virus can spread through a person’s sneeze or cough. Although there is no specific treatment for polio, vaccination with a full course of the vaccine is more than 99 percent effective in preventing infection.

“Guardian” reported that, in order to eradicate wild poliovirus in Nigeria, the national government has teamed up with the local “Global Polio Eradication Initiative” to launch a vaccination campaign targeting children in Borno state in north-eastern Nigeria.

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa said at the news conference that, in addition to vaccination, the alliance has improved surveillance systems to monitor polio outbreaks and work with survivors to raise public awareness. Health workers also face the threat of atrocities by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria, as well as occasional outbreaks of violence by local anti-vaccine groups.


Tunji Funsho told The Reuters news agency that to protect the workers, the coalition, and troops, as well as government-appointed militia groups, were acting as their guards. Misbahu Lawan Didi said, polio survivors in the eradication team also play an essential role in winning the trust of local people.

“A lot of people refuse to get vaccinated for poliovirus, but they also see how hard we have to work with them, and sometimes we have to walk great distances to talk to them,” Didi said, “We ask them: ‘Don’t you think it’s important to protect our children from what happened to us?”

Now, thanks to their great efforts, Africa has been declared free of wild poliovirus -- but the work is not over. The CDC said oral polio vaccines, including those used in Africa, contain weakened polio viruses that sometimes mutate into a wild virus-like form that infects unvaccinated individuals.

Reuters reported that Nigeria and 15 other African countries are currently experiencing small outbreaks of vaccine-derived polio virus. The BBC reports that there have been 177 cases of vaccine-derived polio virus in Africa this year. To avoid vaccine-derived polio, the United States stopped using oral vaccines in 2000 and now they only use inactivated vaccines.

According to the CDC’s website, “Global polio eradication requires the elimination of all oral poliovirus vaccines from routine immunization once wild poliovirus transmission has been eradicated, the sooner the better.” With the elimination of wild poliovirus in Africa, “we must remain vigilant and increase vaccine coverage to prevent the resurgence of wild poliovirus and to address the continuing threat of vaccine-derived polio,” Moeti said at the news conference.

Polio expert Michael Galway told Reuters that wild poliovirus is likely to re-emerge in Africa because it is still transmitted in Afghanistan and Pakistan. “Until the global wild poliovirus is completely eradicated, nowhere else will be safe,” he said.