Wild polio wiped out in Africa
August 26, 2020 - Health authorities have declared Africa free of the wild poliovirus, a landmark achievement in the campaign to eradicate the paralysing disease around the world.
The declaration leaves Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan as the only countries thought to still have the wild poliovirus, with vaccination efforts against the highly infectious, water-borne disease complicated by insecurity and attacks on health workers, AP said.
The announcement by the African Regional Certification Commission for Polio Eradication comes after no cases were reported for four years. Polio once paralysed some 75,000 children a year across Africa.
Health authorities see the declaration as a rare glint of good news in Africa amid the coronavirus pandemic, an Ebola outbreak in western Congo and the persistent deadly challenges of malaria, HIV and tuberculosis.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says this is just the second time a virus has been eradicated in Africa, after the elimination of smallpox four decades ago.
Africa’s last reported case of the wild poliovirus was in Nigeria in 2016. The country a year earlier had been removed from the global list of polio-endemic nations, a step toward being declared polio-free, but new cases were then reported in children in the north — a stark example of the difficulties in combating the disease.
This new declaration doesn’t mean Africa is polio-free. Cases remain of the so-called vaccine-derived polio virus, which is a rare mutated form of the weakened but live virus contained in the oral polio vaccine.
That mutated virus can spark crippling polio outbreaks, and 17 African countries are currently experiencing one, according to WHO data.