Health topics

Poliomyelitis

 

Poliomyelitis

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.

Global Polio Eradication

There are only three polio-endemic countries in the world: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan (data as of September 2014). In the past 12 months importations of wild poliovirus were detected in seven countries which were previously polio-free: Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia and Syria (updated September 2014). In 2013, a total of 416 cases of paralysis due to wild poliovirus were reported globally.

Polio Eradication in the Western Pacific Region

The last indigenous case of wild poliovirus in the Western Pacific Region was reported in Cambodia in 1997. The Western Pacific Region was certified polio free on 29 October 2000. Since certification in 2000, the Region has experienced three wild poliovirus importations. Due to the efforts of public health workers, the transmission of wild poliovirus following the importation was rapidly stopped.

The Polio Endgame

An unprecedented intensity of polio eradication activities between 2010 and 2012 resulted in significant progress towards the global eradication of poliomyelitis. Acknowledging the progress, in May 2012, the World Health Assembly declared the completion of polio eradication a programmatic emergency for global public health and requested the WHO Director-General to rapidly finalize a comprehensive eradication and endgame strategy. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) developed the Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013–2018, a comprehensive, long-term strategy for the eradication and containment of all polioviruses (wild and vaccine-related). At the Sixty-sixth session of the World Health Assembly, Member States reviewed and endorsed the Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013–2018.

The Polio Endgame in the Western Pacific Region

Unlike previous global polio plans, the Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013–2018 has implications for countries and areas in polio-free regions. Recognizing the need to tailor the plan to the Western Pacific Region, the Polio Endgame in the Western Pacific Region 2013–2018 was developed. This document refines activities from the global polio endgame to provide technical guidance to countries and areas on the content of national polio endgame plans, explain the role of the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific, the financial implications and the key implementation challenges of the polio endgame.

Polio Endgame Toolkit

For resources related to the Polio Endgame in the Western Pacific Region, please visit http://www.wpro.who.int/immunization/documents/polioendgame/en/ . The Polio Endgame Toolkit contains useful resources for the Western Pacific Region including briefs, fact sheets, communications resources, poster infographics and inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) introduction training modules related to the polio endgame and IPV introduction.