World Polio Day 2020: History, significance and theme

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New Delhi (NVI): Polio is a highly contagious viral infectious disease that can lead to paralysis, breathing problem or even death, which has hampered the lives of millions of children across the world.

World Polio Day is observed on October 24 every year, to highlight the global efforts toward a polio-free world. Also, to mark the importance of polio vaccination and measures to eradicate it.

Established over a decade ago by Rotary International, World Polio Day is celebrated on the birth anniversary of Jonas Salk, who led the first team to develop a vaccine against poliomyelitis.

Later, a resolution was adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1988 for the worldwide eradication of polio under which the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) was launched.

Poliomyelitis, commonly known as Polio largely affects children under the age of five. It is transmitted through contaminated water or food, or contact with an infected person mainly through the faecal-oral route.

The poliovirus has three strains (type 1, type 2 and type 3), wild poliovirus type 2 was eradicated in 1999 and no further case of wild poliovirus type 3 has been found since it was last reported in Nigeria in November 2012. Both type 2 and type 3 strains have officially been declared as globally eradicated.

Every year Polio Day is celebrated with a theme and the purpose of the theme is different. This year the theme of the Polis Day is “Stories of Progress: Past and Present“. It has been specifically chosen to acknowledge the progress made in eradicating polis so far.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), polio cases have decreased by over 99 per cent since 1988, from an estimated 350,000 cases to 22 reported cases in 2017.

This drastic reduction is the result of the global effort to eradicate the disease. This year, only 3 countries in the world have reported the transmission of polio, which are Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

The day also celebrates progress and the people, volunteers, and local health workers, who make it possible by getting their own children vaccinated. It honours the people working to reach every last child until no child’s future is threatened by the impact of this disease.