Wild poliovirus type 3 has been officially eradicated across the globe, marking an important milestone in the fight against this infectious disease.
A commission of experts made the announcement on World Polio Day today.
“The achievement of polio eradication will be a milestone for global health. Commitment from partners and countries, coupled with innovation, means of the three wild polio serotypes, only type 1 remains,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, said in a statement.
This past August, Nigeria celebrated three years without any new wild polio cases.
As it was the last country in Africa to record cases of wild polio, the continent as a whole can now apply to be certified as polio-free by the Africa Regional Certification Commission.
This was a significant step forward, too — it means that polio now remains endemic is just Afghanistan and Pakistan, where 94 cases have been reported in 2019.
The progress towards eradicating polio in its entirety has been successful in large part due to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), which was formed in 1988 when there were 350,000 cases of polio every year.
The GPEI acts as a public-private partnership and is led by national governments with five key partners: the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Polio is an infectious disease caused by poliovirus. There were once three strains of poliovirus. Type 2 was declared eradicated in September 2015 and the last case of type 3 was reported in northern Nigeria in 2012. It is assumed that type 1 is the only strain that remains.
Increased surveillance, investment in health workers and immunization efforts are of utmost importance when it comes to ensuring the eradication of type 1 — and therefore the eradication of the disease altogether.
While the world is closer than ever before to successfully eliminated this disease for good, health authorities warn against complacency.
“We remain fully committed to ensuring that all necessary resources are made available to eradicate all poliovirus strains,” Dr. Tedros said. “We urge all our other stakeholders and partners to also stay the course until final success is achieved.”
The World Health Organization said that the eradication of this strain of the virus is proof that full eradication is possible — but new funding will be essential.
On Nov. 19, Abu Dhabi will host the Reaching the Last Mile Forum, where world leaders can commit new funding to the GPEI during the Polio Pledging Moment. The funding will be invested in the GPEI Endgame Strategy 2019-2023, the initiative’s plan to eradicate polio once and for all.
To ensure success over the next five years, the GPEI needs US $3.27 billion through to 2023, which would reach the populations that are the hardest to reach with vaccines due to being remote and rural or surrounded by conflict.