“2 Polio Paralysis Cases in Nigeria Set Back Eradication Effort”
Recently reported cases of paralysis from polio in Nigeria has reframed how the international health community is thinking about the polio-eradication efforts. The New York Times published an article on the set back in the polio eradication effort:
In a serious setback to the drive to eradicate polio from the world, two cases of paralysis caused by the virus have been detected in northeast Nigeria, theWorld Health Organization announced Thursday.
The discovery dashed the hopes of global health authorities to be able to declare the continent polio-free soon. Nigeria’s last case of wild polio virus was reported in July 2014. The continent’s last was reported in Somalia a month after that. The W.H.O. requires three years with no confirmed cases before declaring a region polio-free.
“We are deeply saddened by the news,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the W.H.O. regional director for Africa. “The overriding priority now is to immunize all children around the affected area.”
Polio paralyzes only about one child of every 200 infected, and in dangerous or remote regions, many cases of paralysis are never detected, so health authorities assume the virus is far more widespread than two cases would suggest.
Until Thursday, the last known cases of paralysis caused by “wild” virus were all in Pakistan and Afghanistan. (Vaccination in many countries is still done with oral drops containing weakened live virus, which sometimes mutates to become more dangerous and start outbreaks of “vaccine-derived polio,” which also can paralyze. While alarming, those outbreaks can usually be brought under control quickly with further vaccination.)
As recently as 2012, Nigeria accounted for more than half of all polio cases worldwide. Interrupting polio transmission in Africa was considered a major public health triumph. Only two diseases — smallpox and rinderpest, a veterinary disease — have ever been eradicated from the earth, and in both of them the last cases were found in Africa. The last few hundred cases of Guinea worm, or dracunculiasis, the only other disease as close to eradication as polio is, are also confined to Africa.