Through intense efforts from the WHO, CDC, UNICEF, Rotary Club International, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we are on track to eradicate polio by 2019. This would be a nearly unprecedented public health achievement, as just one generation ago thousands of children around the world died or were permanently disabled due to the polio virus. In the 1940s and 1950s in the U.S. alone, over 35,000 children were diagnosed with polio annually. The United States has been polio-free since 1979, and now, for the first time in history, we may be able to say the same for the rest of the world, including Pakistan and Afghanistan, the two countries where polio infections continue to be endemic.
Due to efforts of thousands of people across the globe, there were only 74 polio cases in the world last year. Polio will be only the second human infection which was successfully eradicated through vaccination (the first being small pox in 1980). It is essential that we all continue to vaccinate our children against vaccine preventable diseases. Through each of our efforts, we have the power to completely eliminate deadly diseases. Thanks to polio vaccine efforts, the world will shortly be a safer place for all children.
For more information about polio eradication, check out the World Health Organization’s website at http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs114/en/