Polio: Past, Present and Future

Member of an Emergency Citizens Group in Oklahoma City during a 1963 Polio Eradication Campaign, CDCA global effort to eradicate polio began in 1988. At the time, the disease was endemic in more than 125 countries; by 2006, only Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan still saw endemic polio transmission. Still, despite this progress, the disease has stubbornly refused to disappear completely.

The Center for Vaccine Ethics and Policy blog took note this week of a Lancet Infectious Diseases article titled “Reflection and Reaction: Reconstructing the past of poliovirus eradication efforts.” The blog post suggested that a review of the eradication initiative’s historical record, and a more cautious outlook toward its potential outcomes, might be wise.

This post was unfortunately coincidental with news of expanding polio outbreaks in Africa. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Friday, October 1, that a continuing outbreak of polio in Angola must be stopped to prevent “international consequences.” The disease is spreading not only within Angola but also into the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is the only expanding African outbreak of the disease, and puts the continued progress of the eradication program at risk.

The History of Vaccines website has several resources about both polio and the eradication effort. Visit our polio timeline and polio article, or browse through polio-related images in the gallery.

For current information about polio cases and the eradication effort, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative posts a weekly wild poliovirus update on its website at http://www.polioeradication.org/casecount.asp, as well as a map of worldwide polio cases at http://www.polioeradication.org/content/general/casemap.shtml.