Polio Update
Polio and the Eradication Efforts
By: Natalie Colarossi
Polio or Poliomyelitis is a life threatening disease caused by the poliovirus. Polio has a number of symptoms based on the severity; the most fatal being irreversible paralysis. There are three types of wild polio virus or (WPV), and three types of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV), however WPV is extremely rare especially in developed countries. The eradication efforts led to no cases of WPV in the United States since 1979. The recent outbreaks of polio virus have been vaccine-derived meaning they are traced to the active virus in the oral poliovirus (OPV).
The infographic above was made by The World Health Organization to demonstrate the ways to protect against polio. The World Health Organization partnered with Rotary to spread awareness and eradicate polio. Their website contains accurate and up to date information on polio and the eradication efforts.
Oral Polio Vaccines
The oral poliovirus vaccines were predominantly used to eradicate polio. Each OPV contains an attenuated poliovirus that can replicate in the intestine for immunity, but are 10,000 times less likely than the wild poliovirus to enter the central nervous system and cause sickness. OPVs were especially helpful because they are inexpensive and widely accessible across the globe. Unfortunately, in those rare cases where poliovirus spread through the vaccine, new strains were created called cVDPVs. The attenuated poliovirus strain in the OPV circulated as a weakened
but live virus in unvaccinated communities.
Fighting cVDPVs
In recent months, cVDPV cases were reported in several countries, including the United States. According to the Global Eradication Initiative, cVDPV outbreaks can be stopped if found early. Strengthening polio surveillance systems and ensuring high vaccination coverage are the most important factors to spotting an outbreak of polio. Spotting polio in the United States is straightforward because you can go into the hospital, get tested, and be added to a database; however in countries with less medical access, keeping a record of cases and their locations is more challenging. Rotary International created a messaging system as a database to track polio cases in Nigeria and Pakistan; Rotary was able to donate over 6,000 phones in 2018 to health care workers in the most affected areas of Nigeria and Pakistan.
This YouTube video from Rotary International explains the messaging system and how healthcare workers in Pakistan and Nigeria use it. Now that healthcare workers have surveillance tools to use to track cases and to track vaccinations. The OPV vaccine is still the most effective way to protect against polio, and in high risk communities getting the vaccine can be the difference between life and death. Rotary has made it possible to fully vaccinate a child with only $3, and over 430 million children have been vaccinated in 39 different countries since 2017. Rotary’s efforts have lowered poliovirus rates substantially, and the money being donated through Rotary will go to vaccinating more people in Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan to eradicate the last strains of polio once and for all.