Polio Disease

  • IASbaba
  • January 11, 2020
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TOPIC:General Studies 2:

  • Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, 

Polio Disease


The World Health Organization announced that polio will continue to remain a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) for three months.

What is Polio?

  • Polio, short for poliomyelitis, or infantile paralysis, is an infectious disease caused by the poliovirus. The virus destroys nerve cells in the spinal cord causing muscle wasting and paralysis.
  • There are three wild types of poliovirus (WPV) – type 1, type 2, and type 3. People need to be protected against all three types of the virus in order to prevent polio disease
  • Symptoms: Many people who are infected with the poliovirus don’t become sick and have no symptoms. However, those who do become ill develop paralysis, which can sometimes be fatal

Is it Curable?

  • There is no cure for polio, it can only be prevented. Polio vaccine, given multiple times, can protect a child for life.
  • Vaccine contains weakened-virus activating an immune response in the body, building up antibodies against virus.

What is Vaccine derived Polio Virus?

  • These are rare strains of poliovirus that have genetically mutated from the virus strain contained in the oral polio vaccine(OPV) administered to children. 90% of VDPV cases were due to the type 2 component in OPV

Does Polio still exist?

  • Polio does still exist, although polio cases have decreased by over 99% since 1988, from an estimated more than 350 000 cases to 22 reported cases in 2017. 
  • Today, only 3 countries in the world have never stopped transmission of wild polio virus (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria).

Why has WHO raised the alarm now? 

  • Due to the rising risk of international spread of wild poliovirus type-1. There were 156 cases of wild polio type-1 cases in 2019 compared with 28 in 2018. 
  • An equally disturbing development is on the outbreak of vaccine-derived poliovirus cases in 16 countries; in all, there were 249 vaccine-derived poliovirus cases in 2019.
  • Despite the progress achieved since 1988, as long as a single child remains infected with poliovirus, children in all countries are at risk of contracting the disease. 
  • The poliovirus can easily be imported into a polio-free country and can spread rapidly amongst unimmunized populations. 
  • Failure to eradicate polio could result in as many as 200 000 new cases every year, within 10 years, all over the world.

Concern for India

  • On 27 March 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared India a polio free country, since no cases of wild polio been reported in for five years. 
  • With rising case in the neighbouring country, where Pakistan (128 of 156) accounted for the most number of cases in 2019, there are dangers of virus getting exported from Pakistan to Iran and Afghanistan which is already facing humanitarian crisis due to wars.

Way forward

  • Vaccine-derived polioviruses must be managed in the same way as wild poliovirus outbreaks. The solution is the same for all polio outbreaks: vaccinate every child several times with oral polio vaccine to stop polio transmission, regardless of whether the virus is wild or vaccine-derived.
  • International community must come together to vaccinate children in Afghanistan (total of 8,60,000 children in Afghanistan did not receive polio vaccine due to security threats) and Pakistan. 

Do You know?

  • Nigeria is all set to be declared as having eradicated polio this year, and in turn, the entire African region will become free of wild poliovirus

Connecting the dots

  • Mission Indradhanush of the government of India
  • India is one of the largest producers and exporters of vaccines yet has one of the highest preventable childhood mortality rates of any country in the world. Why?

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