Context: Every year october 24 is observed as World Polio Day, an attempt to appeal to countries to stay vigilant in their fight against the disease. 

More on the news: 

  • According to the WHO, the cases of wild poliovirus have decreased by over 99.9 percent (since 1980) as a result of vaccination efforts made around the world.
  • In the last three decades, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), led by national governments and the WHO, has been monitoring the disease situation globally.
    • GPEI: It is an initiative created in 1988, just after the World Health Assembly resolved to eradicate the disease poliomyelitis. 
    • Led by the World Health Organization and it is the largest international public health initiative in history.

About polio:

  • Viral infection: Polio is a crippling and potentially deadly viral infectious disease that affects the nervous system. 
  • Contagious: The virus lives in the faeces of an infected person and people infected with the disease can spread it to others. People can also be infected if they drink water or eat food contaminated with infected feces.
    • The virus multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system and can cause paralysis.
  • Symptoms: Most people with polio do not feel sick. Some people have only minor symptoms, such as fever, tiredness, nausea, headache, nasal congestion, sore throat, cough etc. 
    • In rare cases, polio infection causes permanent loss of muscle function (paralysis).
  • Can be fatal: If the muscles used for breathing are paralyzed or if there is an infection of the brain.
  • Treatment: There is no treatment for the affliction, however, can be easily prevented by a vaccine.
  • Variants: There are three variants of the poliovirus, numbered 1 to 3.
  • Recent outbreaks are mostly vaccine-derived: Which is a rare strain of the virus genetically mutated from the strain in the vaccine. 
    • According to the WHO, if the oral vaccine-virus is excreted and allowed to circulate in an un or under immunised population for at least 12 months, it can mutate to cause infections.
  • When a country is declared polio free? - For a country to be declared polio-free, the wild transmission of all three kinds has to be stopped. For eradication, cases of both wild and vaccine-derived polio infection have to be reduced to zero.
    • According to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Afghanistan and Pakistan are the two countries that are the last stronghold of the wild poliovirus. 

About the World Polio Day: It was established by Rotary International over a decade ago to commemorate the birth of Jonas Salk, who led the first team to develop the vaccine against the disease.

Situation in India:

  • Declared polio-free in January 2014: By the WHO, after three years of zero cases, an achievement widely believed to have been spurred by the successful pulse polio campaign in which all children were administered polio drops. 
  • Vaccines to prevent infection:
    • OPV (Oral Polio Vaccine): It is given orally as a birth dose for institutional deliveries, then primary three doses at 6, 10 & 14 weeks and one booster dose at 16-24 months of age.
    • Injectable Polio Vaccine (IPV): It is introduced as an additional dose along with the 3rd dose of DPT under the universal immunization programme (UIP).

Universal Immunization Programme (UIP)

  • Launched by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India in 1985, UIP prevents mortality and morbidity in children and pregnant women against 12 vaccine preventable diseases.
  • Under UIP free of cost vaccination is provided against twelve vaccine preventable diseases i.e. Tuberculosis, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, Polio, Hepatitis B, Pneumonia and Meningitis due to Haemophilus Influenzae type b (Hib), Measles, Rubella, Japanese Encephalitis (JE) and Rotavirus diarrhoea.

Source: NyTimes