“80% of the world is now Polio free,” celebrates Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in a recent article.
The achievement is noteworthy, because the polio eradication program is an example of how a stringent policy of vaccinations and immunizations can help to eradicate devastating diseases. It provides scientific evidence that the world can become free of other viral diseases like measles, mumps and pertussis. Polio hasn’t been a concern in North America for decades. In fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Americas Region was certified as polio-free in 1994. So why should we be concerned if polio is still endemic in other parts of the world? Beyond the humanitarian concerns of sparing children from a disabling and even fatal disease, an uncontrolled outbreak anywhere in the world could spark polio’s return around the globe. Plus, the fight against polio improves the world’s capacity to fight other infectious diseases. The WHO notes that most countries now have more effective surveillance and immunization systems.
In 1988 the WHO adopted a resolution for the worldwide eradication of polio. Here are a few facts, and a brief history, provided by the WHO:

For certification, all countries in the WHO region need to have no case of wild polio for 3 years.
No single country can be certified as polio-free. WHO regions as a whole are certified as polio-free.
The formal process for certification of polio eradication was established in 1995 at the first meeting of the Global Certification Commission (GCC).
There are national certification committees (NCCs) that focus on analysis at the country level.
All regions have a certification commission.
Three regions have been certified as polio-free for over a decade: Americas, 1994; Western Pacific, 2000; Europe, 2002. Just this year, 2014, the South-East Asia Region gained certification.

“Polio cases have decreased by over 99% since 1988, from an estimated 350,000 cases then, to 406 reported cases in 2013. The reduction is the result of the global effort to eradicate the disease,” reports the WHO. But the fight is not over yet. According to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, polio remains endemic in three countries: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. Two regions are continuing to work toward certification: WHO African Region and WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region.
To find out more about the ongoing programs, and to review the history of polio eradication around the world, visit the online resources through the organizations listed below.
Global Polio Eradication Initiative
World Health Organization (WHO)
Rotary International
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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