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Wild Polio Virus: Nigeria now free, says WHO

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Wild Polio Virus: Nigeria now free, says WHO
Director-General of WHO, Dr. Margaret Chan

Nigeria is no longer Wild Polio endemic, the World Health Organisation, WHO said Thursday.

The country’s Wild Polio Virus free status came as its completed documentation for the virus was accepted by the Africa Regional Certification Commission for polio eradication, ARCC.

WHO, which declared this on its Twitter handle, said the devastating disease was at the moment endemic in only two countries thus bringing the world one major step closer to achieving this goal of ending polio for good.

Director-General of WHO, Dr. Margaret Chan, speaking on this, said: “The outstanding commitment and efforts that got Nigeria off the endemic list must continue, to keep Africa polio-free.”

“We must now support the efforts in Pakistan and Afghanistan so they soon join the polio-free world,” she added.

The organisation said Nigeria has made remarkable progress against polio, but continued vigilance is needed to protect these gains and ensure that polio does not return.

There is no doubt that Nigeria has not reported a case of wild poliovirus since 24 July 2014. Laboratory data has confirmed that a full 12 months have passed without any new cases.

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Immunization and surveillance activities must continue to rapidly detect a potential re-introduction or re-emergence of the virus, the agency said, explaining that only after three years have passed without a case of wild poliovirus on the African continent will an official ”certification” of polio eradication be conducted at the regional level in Africa.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), the public-private partnership leading the effort to eradicate polio on the planet, called the development a ”historic achievement” in global health.

As recently as 2012, Nigeria accounted for more than half of all polio cases worldwide, according to WHO.

“More than 200,000 volunteers across the country repeatedly immunized more than 45 million children under the age of 5, to ensure that no child would suffer from this paralysing disease,” the agency said.

Recall that since 1988, the incidence of polio has been reduced by more than 99 percent, according to WHO.

At the time, more than 350,000 children were paralysed every year, in more than 125 endemic countries. Today, two countries remain which have never stopped endemic transmission of polio: Pakistan and Afghanistan, where there have been in 2015, 41 cases reported (32 in Pakistan, 9 in Afghanistan).

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