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Strain of wild poliovirus eradicated: WHO

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A child receives a polio vaccination drop during the nationwide vaccination campaign against measles, rubella and polio targeting all children under 15 years old in Nkozi town, about 84 km from the capital Kampala, on October 19, 2019. – Uganda’s Ministry of health with WHO and UNICEF aim to immunize more than 18 million children in Uganda which is about 43 percent of the population during their 5-day vaccination campaign. (Photo by Badru KATUMBA / AFP)

Wild poliovirus type 3 has been eradicated, the World Health Organization said Thursday, hailing the development as a “historic achievement for humanity” that leaves only one strain of the virus in transmission.

All three types of wild polio can cause paralysis and death, but WHO categorises them separately in terms of eradication because of certain virological differences.

The last confirmed case of WPV3 was recorded in northern Nigeria in 2012.

An independent panel, chaired by WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, concluded that the required criteria have been met to “verify that this strain is truly gone”, the United Nations health agency said in a statement.

WPV2 was declared eradicated in 2015, but WPV1 continues to circulate in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Non-wild forms of polio — known as vaccine-derived polio — remain in transmission in parts of Africa and Asia, including the Philippines where a re-emergence last month nearly two decades after the last case has triggered a mass vaccination campaign.

Vaccine-derived polio is caused by the weakened form of the virus used in vaccines, which is excreted by people for a time after they receive it.

According to WHO, that form can mutate and spread in the surrounding community when immunisation rates get too low.

“We cannot stop our efforts now: we must eradicate all remaining strains of all polioviruses,” David Salisbury, chair of the independent Global Commission for the Certification of Poliomyelitis Eradication, said in the statement.


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