Africa is free of wild polio

Africa is free of wild polio

  • Ann Dina
The global pandemic announced in 2020 [1] took the world by storm. Our world came to know loss due to the devastation caused by the COVID-19 infection. But even in difficult times such as these, the collaborative human spirit continues to persevere to achieve progress, prosperity and peace.

A way in which progress was achieved in the year 2020, was the announcement that the African continent was declared polio free by the Africa Regional Certification Commission [2], which is an independent body set up by the World Health Organization (WHO) to identify when polio eradication is achieved in Africa [3]. This was a great achievement for all those involved in the endeavour.

Polio (poliomyelitis) is a disease caused by the poliovirus that can have debilitating and life-threatening effects. Its symptoms range from mild to severe. Its ability to infect the brain and spinal cord can leave its sufferers paralysed [4]. Polio is mostly seen in children under five. There is no cure but vaccinations give children protection against the virus for life[2].

Poliovirus is highly contagious [4] and is usually transmitted through the consumption of contaminated water . Two out of three strains have been eradicated worldwide and now the third strain is no longer present in 47 out of 54 African countries with 95% of the African population having been vaccinated.

However, there is a new strain of polio present on the African continent named “vaccine -derived polio” of which there are only 177 cases known at the present moment [2].

Africa is the second most populated continent in the world with a population of approximately 1.3 billion people [5]. This eradication of wild polio is an amazing achievement in global health and it shows how being tenacious in reaching a goal can bring about the accomplishment of that goal, which gives hope that the world can become a healthier place by taking one step at a time.

References [1] BBC News. Coronavirus confirmed as pandemic by World Health Organization. [online]. 2020. Available from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-51839944 (accessed 2021 Mar12) [2] BBC News. Africa declared free of wild polio in 'milestone'. [online]. 2020. Available from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-53887947 (accessed 2021 Mar 10) [3] WHO. Africa eradicates wild poliovirus. [online] 2020. Available from: https://www.afro.who.int/news/africa-eradicates-wild-poliovirus#:~:text=The%20WHO%20Regional%20Director%20for,have%20eradicated%20the%20wild%20poliovirus (accessed 2021 Mar 12) [4] CDC. What is Polio? [online]. 2019. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/polio/what-is-polio/index.htm#:~:text=Polio%2C%20or%20poliomyelitis%2C%20is%20a,move%20parts%20of%20the%20body (accessed 2021 Mar 10) [5] ksh.hu. World population by continents, 1950-2100. [online]. Available from: https://www.ksh.hu/interaktiv/grafikonok/vilag_nepessege_en.html (accessed 2021 Mar12)