World Polio Day is celebrated on 24 October, a pathology with a high rate of morbidity and mortality, which mainly affects children. This year, the World Health Organization’s European Region is celebrating 20 years of polio liberation.
In 1988, when WHO joined the global initiative to eradicate polio by passing a specific resolution, the disease was paralyzing ten children every 15 minutes and was widespread in almost every country in the world. However, each case was avoidable, thanks to vaccination.
“A success to celebrate”, but also a “fragile legacy” to defend. “This year we celebrate an important milestone: the European Region has been “polio-free” for 20 years, free from indigenous wild polio. It was 2002 when the declaration” of the goal reached arrived, he recalls Hans Kluge, regional director of the World Health Organization for Europe, who today on the occasion of World Poliomyelitis Day also issues a warning: “Thankfully, thanks to vaccination, polio is on the verge of becoming a thing of the past. Globally, cases have dropped by 99% since the 1980s. We are on the verge of eradication, which would make polio the second disease after smallpox to be consigned to history”.
Thanks to extensive vaccination campaigns and surveillance systems, only a few cases of polio are reported in the world. However two countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan, still remain endemic, as they never stopped recording polio cases. Furthermore, until the virus is eradicated, every country will remain at risk of reintroducing the disease: for this reason it is necessary to maintain high vaccination coverage and implement effective surveillance.
Polio is an acute infectious disease, very contagious, caused by a virus (poliovirus), which affects the nervous system by attacking the neural cells and inducing paralysis (acute flaccid paralysis) which, in the most serious cases, can involve the respiratory muscles and be lethal .The only weapon is vaccination
The infection can be transmitted through saliva or by ingestion of contaminated food or water. “It occurs mainly in children under 5” and has no specific cure, while the only weapon is vaccination.