The top of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) webpage last week stated the following fact: For the first time ever, no cases of wild poliovirus have been reported in Africa in the last 4 months. 

Image/Chris Zahniser, B.S.N., R.N., M.P.H.

That really speaks volumes of the progress toward eradication in the world’s second largest continent. In 2010, there were more than 650 polio cases reported in Africa. This is followed by 350 in 2011, 128 in 2012 and 274 last year (much of that total was due to the outbreak on the Horn of Africa).

So far in 2014, Africa has seen 22 polio cases…that’s correct…22. A drop of 90 percent!

Nigeria, one of the last three polio endemic countries has reported only six cases this year, compared to 53 in 2013. The remaining polio cases involve cases reported from the Horn of Africa outbreak that started in 2013 and 10 cases, 5 each from Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea.

The battle against polio has seen it’s milestones–decreased by over 99% since 1988, when there was an estimated 350,000 cases in more than 125 endemic countries to 333 cases in three endemic countries (Pakistan accounting for 85 percent of cases this year).

The month of November marked two years without a single case of wild poliovirus type 3 (type 2 wild poliovirus transmission has been successfully stopped since 1999).

It’s been nearly four years since India reported a polio case. It has since been declared polio-free. An amazing feat for a country that in 1985 reported some 150,000 cases of polio. This had fallen to about 6,000 in 1991, to 741 in 2009 and to just 42 in 2010. In fact, in 2009, India had half of the reported cases of polio worldwide.

With all the great news, especially in Africa, the GPEI reminds us that the progress made in 2014 is real, but it is fragile. In 2015, we must hold on to the progress made and take a resolute stand against polio in its final hiding places. 

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