The Latest Updates on Polio Outbreaks

There are 99 percent fewer cases of Polio today than there were in 1988. despite best attempts to eradicate polio, the disease is still extant. As long as there is one case of polio, there is still a risk of it being spread.

Only three countries have never stopped the spread of polio. These are Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan. This is problematic: polio is highly contagious, and we could see hundreds of thousands of new polio outbreaks cases if the disease is not eradicated.

Even now, there are still new outbreaks around the world. While not as widespread in the west as it once was, it is a huge problem for the global south.

Want to find out more about ongoing outbreaks, and how close we are to ridding the world of this horrendous disease? Then read on.

What Is Polio?

If you are of a certain age, you may not be aware of what polio is. This disease is caused by poliovirus germ and is spread by infected feces.

The disease’s fatality rate is up to 30 percent. If survived, it can leave suffers from permanent paralysis. Since 1988, there has been a significant drop in the number of cases.

As we shall see, it is far from being cured completely.

Polio Outbreaks in Africa

Polio outbreaks are a major problem in Africa, despite best efforts to stop its spread.

So far, there have been polio outbreaks in 11 African regions this year.

Lake Chad Basin Area

The Lake Chad Basin, which covers areas of Niger, Cameroon, and Nigeria, has seen a number of outbreaks of the cVDPV2 polio strain. There has also been an outbreak of this strain in Ghana, which has been linked to the disease’s spread in the Kwara area of Nigeria.

Nigeria Proper

As we mentioned in the intro, Nigeria is one of just three countries that has been unable to stop the spread of polio. As of 2019, there are outbreaks in 17 different states. At least 23 children have tested positive for the disease.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo

Seven provinces of the Congo have reported polio outbreaks. In these regions, 31 cases have been reported. These have all been of the cVDPV2 strain.

The Central African Republic

The neighboring Central African Republic has also had polio outbreaks in 2019. Several different strains have emerged, proving problematic for healthcare workers.

The Horn of Africa

This region, covering Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia, has reported numerous polio outbreaks in 2019. The infections are complicated by low governmental authority in Somalia, which makes surveillance of the disease difficult.

Population movements between the countries have also helped to increase the risk of infection. The area is considered to be high-risk for polio outbreaks.

Polio Outbreaks in the Philippines

In September, the World Health Organization broke the news of a recent polio outbreak in the Philippines. Fortunately, it does not appear to have become widespread.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative has stepped in to help the Filipino government. Mass vaccinations have recently begun, and with luck, the disease will not become widespread.

Polio Outbreaks in Pakistan

Like Nigeria, Pakistan has been unable to halt the spread of polio to the same degree as other nations. Despite 6 million children being vaccinated in 2019, 45 percent of environmental sites tested positive for the WPV1 polio strain.

In 2014, there were 306 cases of polio, the highest recorded infection rate since 2000.

Misinformation, population movements between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Islamist control of certain provinces make vaccination difficult. While the eradication initiative is making progress, there is still much to do before polio can be eradicated in Pakistan.

Is Polio Eradicated?

As we have seen, polio is far from totally eradicated. However, there has been one good development in recent years.

In October, the WHO reported that one polio strain, type three polio, has been eradicated. The last case was reported in northern Nigeria in 2012.

Type two is also on the verge of eradication. Type one polio is the only one that remains widespread, particularly in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

How Is Polio Treated?

One key reason that preventative vaccination for polio is so important is that there is no cure. Once the infection takes hold, it is simply a matter of making the sufferer more comfortable, so that they can enjoy life as much as possible.

This treatment for polio can involve physical therapy, painkillers, and artificial ventilation.

Fortunately, not everybody who is infected with polio will develop the worst symptoms. Many will suffer few or no symptoms, but an unlucky few will suffer limb deformities, an inability to breathe, or varying degrees of paralysis.

The disease is infectious, but it can only be spread through the feces of an infected person. Thanks to modern sanitation techniques, this makes the likelihood of polio outbreaks very slim in the developed world.

However, in countries that lack such infrastructure, the risk of infection is very high.

Can I Help?

Unless you are a medical professional, you will not be able to directly help. However, you can support the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. This is the intergovernmental body that vaccinates those most at risk.

The State of Polio in 2019

While polio outbreaks are still on the decline, they are far from a thing of the past. It is important to be vaccinated for polio. Wherever you live, you should have been vaccinated; if you have not, consult a physician.

If you are planning on traveling to regions of the world with endemic polio, do not go unless you have been given the vaccine.

Smallpox was eradicated in 1980. We are well on the way to eradicating another awful human disease from the planet, but there’s a way to go yet.

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