BBC is reporting that Nigeria has made it a year without declaring a single case of polio. If the World Health Organization (WHO) confirms the results, Nigeria is eligible to be removed from the list of countries where the disease is endemic.
This is a milestone for Nigeria as it was believed internal turmoil would hamper the battle against the crippling disease.
Nigeria’s polio free period, dating from July 24, 2014, is the longest it has gone without recording a case of polio. The hope is that next month the entire African continent will have gone a full year without a polio infection, with the last case of Polio being recorded in Somalia on Aug. 11, 2014.
The Director of Rotary International’s polio program applauded the achievement saying,
“It’s an extraordinary achievement. It really shows the value of government leadership and taking ownership of the program.”
Up until the 1950s polio crippled thousands of people a year in rich and poor nations alike. The poliomyelitis virus attacks the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis within hours of infection.
The disease often spreads among young children and in areas with poor sanitation conditions that allow it to run rampant in areas of conflict and unrest. However, the spread of the disease can be halted with population wide vaccination.
Nigeria had struggled to contain polio since some northern states imposed a year-long vaccine ban in mid-2003. Some state governors and religious leaders in the predominantly Islamic north thought and promoted the idea that the vaccines were contaminated by Western powers to spread sterility and HIV/AIDS among Muslims.
Engaging traditional and religious leaders and polio survivors in immunization campaigns while using thousands of volunteers to build trust, were vital components of Nigeria’s successful elimination of polio. All of these factors, coupled with the continuation of high levels of vaccine coverage, will help keep polio at bay.
Nigeria’s polio eradication milestone brings the entire world a step closer to the prospect of polio becoming the second human infectious disease after small pox to be eradicated.
For more information visit BBC.