August 19 – Going, Going,…

Today’s factismal: Africa has gone a year without a new case of polio.

You want some good news? Some really, really good news? Africa has gone a full year without a new case of polio being diagnosed. That means that they are 1/3 of the way to being a polio-free zone. To put this into perspective, in 1988, when the current polio vaccination push began, there were 350,000 cases of polio each year in Africa. By 2013, that had dropped to 416 cases. And over the past year that has become none.

In 1900, polio was found in every country

In 1900, polio was found in every country

Last year, it was only found in two (Pakistan and Afghanistan)

Last year, it was only found in two (Pakistan and Afghanistan)

The amazing thing is that this drop has happened despite the widespread endemic trouble in Africa. Nine people doing polio vaccinations were shot to death in 2013. Boko Haram in Nigeria has called for vaccinators to be “punished” for “un-Islamic activities”. Somalia has been engaged in a long-running civil war that has made vaccinations difficult to come by. And refugee camps are natural breeding grounds for disease as groups of unvaccinated people from different regions mix together. And yet, despite having the deck stacked against them, the Africans have managed to reduce polio cases to zero.

A child in Chad receiving the polio vaccine (Image courtesy NIH)

A child in Chad receiving the polio vaccine
(Image courtesy NIH)

The Africans are traveling the same path that America went down in the 1950s, after Salk developed an effective polio vaccine. Before the vaccine, polio would kill more than 6,000 people each year in the US. By 1965, the threat of polio had become a distant and unregretted memory. Worldwide, the polio vaccine has saved about two million lives each year and kept another 750,000 from being paralyzed. To put it mildly, the vaccine is a blessing that has wiped out polio in all but three countries ((Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria). If you’d like to help make polio a memory in those three remaining countries, then make certain that you and your family have had your vaccinations, and join the Global Polio Eradication Initiative:
http://www.polioeradication.org/

One thought on “August 19 – Going, Going,…

  1. Pingback: June 24 – On Wings Of Eagles | Little facts about science

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