Africa to be declared free of the wild poliovirus

By BBC News

Africa is to be declared free from the last remaining strain of poliovirus by the independent body, the Africa Regional Certification Commission, ARCC, on Tuesday.

This comes after two out of three strains of wild poliovirus have been eradicated worldwide, after more than 95% of Africa’s population has now been immunised.

Poliovirus was one of the conditions that the Africa Regional Certification Commission set before declaring the continent free from wild polio and is now only found in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Nigeria is the last African country to be declared free from the disease, having accounted for more than half of all global cases less than a decade ago.

The disease usually affects children under five, sometimes leading to irreversible paralysis. Death can occur when breathing muscles are affected by paralysis due to an attack on the nervous system.

Polio is a virus which spreads from person to person, usually through contaminated water. However, there is no cure but the polio vaccine protects children for life.

The WHO says that it is important countries remain vigilant and avoid complacency until there is global eradication. If they let down their defence by failing to vaccinate, then wild polio could once again begin to spread quickly.

For all types of polio to be eliminated, including vaccine-derived polio, vaccination efforts will need to continue alongside surveillance, to protect children from being paralysed by the disease in the future.