Africa Is Officially Polio Free! – WHO Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus Says
On Tuesday 25th August 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) DG, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced that Africa is officially free of polio. Mark the date!
Tedros, speaking from a live-streamed event made the announcement thanking everyone that contributed to the success. Before recent scientific advancements and full-time dedication to eradicating it, ‘wild polio’ had been a common menace in Africa.
Wild Poliovirus is a virus that affects the nerves of small children causing their muscles to weaken and often leads to paralysis. Since there is no cure for it, the best option was to vaccinated babies against getting it.
The major work to eradicate polio began in 1996. Governmental bodies and nonprofits took it seriously, undertaking vaccination campaigns across all of Africa. Most notably, the Rotary International, WHO, UNICEF, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have worked with national governments for over 20 years.
Thanking the collaborative effort and announcing the cheerful message, CNN quoted Tedros as saying; “Today we come together to rejoice over a historic public health success, the certification of wild poliovirus eradication in the African region. The end of wild polio in Africa is a great day. Your success is the success of the world. None of us could have done this alone.”
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The last case of the poliovirus had happened around 2016 in Nigeria, but the bodies in charge could not announce that it was eradicated just yet. They had to wait for four years, during which they conducted surveillance.
Rose Gana Fomban Leke, who heads African Regional Certification Commission for Polio eradication commented; “The work has gone on for years and now we can see the results. It’s such a huge milestone. I’m confident to say that in the region, for the last four years we haven’t seen one poliovirus.”
However, there is still a risk of polio infection in the future, especially in under-immunised populations. This arises from the fact that a weakened polio virus is used to make the oral vaccine and it can resurface after years.
In fact, there are 16 African countries already battling this kind of outbreaks. To prevent this, many children now get two doses of polio vaccines; the oral and the shot. The polio shot vaccines have no risk of the virus resurfacing. WHO is working to get both types of polio vaccine to every part of Africa.
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