|Press Release WHO/5
30 January 1999
THE WORLD ON THE BRINK OF ERADICATING POLIO, WHO SAYS
DAVOS- With a last, forceful vaccination campaign, the world can eradicate poliomyelitis within two years, World Health Organization Director-General DR Gro Harlem Brundtland said here Saturday.
"Thanks to steady progress in vaccination, we are on the brink of eradicating this crippling disease with an ambitious target of eradication by the end of next year," she said in a speech to the World Economic Forum.
To achieve this goal, an estimated 370 million dollars is needed in addition to funds already secured in order to carry out the last essential vaccination campaigns. A world free of polio would save $1.5 billion annually in vaccination costs.
"Think about it. A one-time investment of 370 million dollars will give savings of 1.5 billion dollars every year for as long as you can imagine. I can think of few investments with a better return than this one," Dr Brundtland told world and business leaders.
Progress in polio eradication over the past 10 years has been remarkable. In 1988, virus circulated widely on all continents except Australia. By 1998, the Americas were polio-free, transmission has been interrupted in the Western Pacific Region of WHO, including China, and in the European Region, except for a small focus in south-east Turkey. Only three major foci of transmission remain: South Asia (Afghanistan, Pakistan, India), West Africa (mainly Nigeria) and Central Africa (mainly Democratic Republic of Congo).
Polio is an infectious disease caused by a virus. It can strike at any age, but affects mainly children under three (over 50% of all cases). The disease causes paralysis, which is almost always irreversible. In the most severe cases, polio paralysis can lead to death by asphyxiation. The virus enters through the mouth and then multiplies inside the throat and intestines. The incubation period is 4-35 days and the initial symptoms include fever, fatigue, headaches, vomiting, constipation (or less commonly diarrhoea), stiffness in the neck, and pain in the limbs.
The global eradication strategy is four-pronged, involving:
Among the most generous donors for polio vaccination are the Rotarians who have given or pledged nearly $500 million for vaccination campaigns up to the end of this year.
The remaining campaigns will focus on 14 countries and areas that up to now have been hard to reach due to armed conflict or lack of central government infrastructure, such as the Democratic republic of the Congo and Liberia. Already, truces have been called for polio vaccination campaigns in Afghanistan, El Salvador, Peru, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Tajikistan.
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