Health topics



Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious viral disease, which mainly affects young children. The virus is transmitted through contaminated food and water, and multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system. Many infected people have no symptoms, but do excrete the virus in their faeces, hence transmitting infection to others.

Initial symptoms of polio include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck, and pain in the limbs. In a small proportion of cases, the disease causes paralysis, which is often permanent. Polio can only be prevented by immunization.

In May 2012, the World Health Assembly declared the completion of polio eradication a programmatic emergency for global public health and requested the Director-General to rapidly finalize a comprehensive eradication and endgame strategy for the period 2013-2018. The Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013-2018, endorsed by the World Health Assembly, was developed to eradicate both wild poliovirus and vaccine-derived polioviruses, which can cause outbreaks of paralytic disease. It also plans for the 25 years of investment from the polio programme eradication effort to be used for delivering other health services to the world’s most vulnerable children.

The Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013-2018 is currently being adapted to the needs of countries and territories in the Western Pacific Region, which has been certified polio-free since 2000. Since then, the Region has successfully maintained its polio-free status but continued vigilance is necessary. Until virus transmission is completely stopped in polio-endemic countries, polio-free regions remain at risk.