The World Health Organization (WHO) announced today that polio is no longer endemic in Nigeria, leaving the devastating disease endemic in only two countries and bringing the world one major step closer to achieving this goal of ending polio for good.
“The outstanding commitment and efforts that got Nigeria off the endemic list must continue, to keep Africa polio-free,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan. “We must now support the efforts in Pakistan and Afghanistan so they soon join the polio-free world.”
Since 1988, the incidence of polio has been reduced by more than 99 percent, according to WHO. At the time, more than 350,000 children were paralysed every year, in more than 125 endemic countries. Today, two countries remain which have never stopped endemic transmission of polio: Pakistan and Afghanistan, where there have been in 2015, 41 cases reported (32 in Pakistan, 9 in Afghanistan).
In its announcement today, WHO said that Nigeria has made remarkable progress against polio, but continued vigilance is needed to protect these gains and ensure that polio does not return.
Nigeria has not reported a case of wild poliovirus since 24 July 2014, and all laboratory data has confirmed that a full 12 months have passed without any new cases.
Immunization and surveillance activities must continue to rapidly detect a potential re-introduction or re-emergence of the virus, the agency said, explaining that only after three years have passed without a case of wild poliovirus on the African continent will an official 'certification' of polio eradication be conducted at the regional level in Africa.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), the public-private partnership leading the effort to eradicate polio on the planet, called the development a 'historic achievement' in global health.
As recently as 2012, Nigeria accounted for more than half of all polio cases worldwide, according to WHO.
“More than 200,000 volunteers across the country repeatedly immunized more than 45 million children under the age of 5, to ensure that no child would suffer from this paralysing disease,” the agency said.