Polio is a highly infectious viral disease that it invades the nervous system, and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. The virus is transmitted from person-to-person through ingestion of infected fecal matter. Following infection, the virus is shed intermittently in excrement for several weeks with little or no symptoms in majority of cases. The initial symptoms of poliomyelitis include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, neck stiffness and pain in the limbs.
In 1988, when WHO and partners established the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, aiming to eradicate polio, the disease was paralysing over 1000 children per day and was active in all countries of the Region. The African Region has not had wild polio cases in over a year.
Factors that have contributed to the progress in polio eradication in the Region inlcude:
- Commitment of political leaders
- Implementation of intensive surveillance activities in all countries of the Region
- Polio laboratory network made up of 16 laboratories providing critical information, including genetic sequencing data
- Innovative approaches in social mobilization and communication to overcome misconceptions and rumours
- Cross-border collaboration and the implementation of synchronized immunization campaigns across large numbers of countries simultaneously
- Use of improved vaccines and new technologies to improve vaccination coverage