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Polio worldwide reduced by 99% since 1988 – UN spokesman

UNITED NATIONS — On World Polio Day, which falls on Oct. 24, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that since the establishment of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) in 1988, polio worldwide has been reduced by 99 percent.

Polio worldwide reduced by 99% since 1988 - UN spokesman Credit: RIBI Image Library / Flickr / Manila Bulletin

Polio worldwide reduced by 99% since 1988 – UN spokesman
Credit: RIBI Image Library / Flickr / Manila Bulletin

“Despite that progress, as long as a single child remains infected with poliovirus, children in all countries are at risk of contracting the disease,” Dujarric said at a daily news briefing here.

“There is no cure for polio, but polio vaccine, given multiple times, can protect a child for life,” he said.

Over the past 12 months, in addition to polio endemic countries Pakistan and Afghanistan, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have supported polio campaigns in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Egypt, Libya, Djibouti, Jordan and Lebanon, he said.

“Campaigns will continue in countries with higher risk until polio is eradicated worldwide,” he said.

World Polio Day was established by Rotary International over a decade ago to commemorate the birth of Jonas Salk, who led the first team to develop a vaccine against poliomyelitis.

Use of this inactivated poliovirus vaccine and subsequent widespread use of the oral poliovirus, developed by Albert Sabin, led to the establishment of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) in 1988.

Polio is a crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease. Polio can be prevented through immunization. Polio vaccine, given multiple times, almost always protects a child for life. The strategy to eradicate polio is therefore based on preventing infection by immunizing every child until transmission stops and the world is polio-free.