- According to experts at UNICEF, there have only been 25 cases of polio reported this year.
- Polio is a viral disease that affects the nervous system, and can lead to irreversible paralysis in only a few hours.
- Because of large-scale vaccination campaigns within the last 30 years, polio if finally close to being wiped out, although it was endemic in 125 countries in the late 1980s.
Jonas Salk is hailed as a hero because of the work he did to bring the poliovirus vaccine to the world in the 1950's. Prior to widescale use of the polio vaccine, it was not unusual to see people in wheelchairs, including young children, because of the unchecked ravages of viral polio. And although eradication happened fairly quickly in the U.S., in the developing world, almost 1,000 children became paralyzed each day because of polio throughout the 1980s.
The effort to eradicate polio is collaborative and includes the Gates Foundation, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, and the CDC. The only remaining cases of polio this year have been reported in Pakistan and Afghanistan, so health officials are focusing their efforts there with the goal of zero cases during the next surveillance study.