With a global tally of just 33 cases from two countries during the first six months of 2015, health officials are reporting the lowest number of cases ever during this time frame. During the same period last year, 122 cases in 9 countries were seen.

Polio vaccine Image/Michael Washington, PhD, Health Scientist, NCEZID
Polio vaccine
Image/Michael Washington, PhD, Health Scientist, NCEZID

With two additional wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) cases reported in the past week in Pakistan, that countries total is only 28, compared to 94 at this time last year. Afghanistan, the only other country reporting WPV1 this year, has seen 5 cases.

The biggest news this year concerning polio has to be the success of Nigeria in their battle against the crippling viral disease. Nigeria, the third remaining polio endemic country, has not reported a case in 2015, in fact, has not seen a case since 24 July 2014.

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, compared to what we are seeing in 2015.

It’s been 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.

According to the World Health Organization, Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It invades the nervous system, and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. The virus is transmitted by person-to-person spread mainly through the fecal-oral route or, less frequently, by a common vehicle (e.g. contaminated water or food) 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 paralyzed, 5% to 10% die when their breathing muscles become immobilized.

Polio mainly affects children under 5 years of age. There is no cure for polio, it can only be prevented. Polio vaccine, given multiple times, can protect a child for life.