There is no cure for polio but it can be prevented with polio vaccine
In 2013, only three countries in the world remain polio-endemic
Nigerian child receives IPV. Photo: WHO/F. Caillette/2006
Crippling, potentially fatal
Polio is a crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease that mainly affects young children under the age of five. The virus is transmitted through contaminated food and water, and multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system.
Many infected people have no symptoms, but do excrete the virus in their faeces, hence transmitting infection to others.
Polio invades the nervous system, and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. The virus enters the body through the mouth and multiplies in the intestine. Initial symptoms are fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck and pain in the limbs.
One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis (usually in the legs). Among those paralysed, 5% to 10% die when their breathing muscles become immobilised.
Polio eradication efforts
There is no cure for polio, it can only be prevented. Polio vaccine, given multiple times, can protect a child for life.
Since the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) was launched in 1988, polio cases have decreased by over 99%: from an estimated 350 000 cases in more than 125 endemic countries then, to 223 reported cases in 2012.
In 2013, only parts of three countries in the world remain polio-endemic – Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. India, once the world’s epicentre of polio, has remained polio free since January 2011.
GPEI is a public-private partnership spearheaded by national governments, the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and UNICEF. Its goal is to eradicate polio worldwide.