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Vaccines Changing Lives – Case Study: Polio

How has the incidence of polio been reduced since the introduction of a vaccine?
clipboard and stethoscope
© flickr photo by Marco Vetch Professional Photographer and Speaker shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license
Polio (poliomyelitis) is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It is transmitted easily from person to person via contact or contaminated water or food.

Polio mainly affects children under age of five. Initial symptoms of the disease are fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness of the neck and pain in the limbs. 1 in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis usually in the legs. Among those paralysed, 5% – 10% die when their breathing muscles become immobilised.

Since an international commitment to eradicate Polio using vaccination in 1988, cases due to natural poliovirus have decreased by over 99% – from an estimated 350,000 cases, to 33 reported cases in 2018. Currently 80% of the world’s population live in certified polio-free regions. More than 16 million people are able to walk today, who would otherwise have been paralysed.

As long as a single child remains infected, children in all countries are at risk of contracting polio. The strategies for polio eradication work when they are fully implemented. This is clearly demonstrated by India’s success in stopping the spread of polio in January 2011, in arguably one of the most technically challenging settings. Failure to implement strategic approaches however, leads to on-going transmission of the virus. Endemic transmission is currently continuing in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. Failure to stop polio in these last remaining areas could result in as many as 200,000 new cases every year. Within 10 years, the virus could spread globally.

This animation produced by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2011 summarises the history of work towards polio eradication. Since the videos creation, India has been certified polio-free on 27 March 2014.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

Please have a look at the resources section below which has links to more information on Polio as well as an additional video of a Polio survivor living in the USA.

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The Role of Vaccines in Preventing Infectious Diseases and Antimicrobial Resistance

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