5 Things You Need to Know About the World Polio Crisis

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a statement saying that polio once again poses a significant threat to global health. Here’s what you need to know about how this has happened and what is being done about it.

1. When Did WHO Declare This and What Does a State of Emergency Mean?

The WHO Emergency Committee was convened on April 29, and the affected states participating in these talks included Afghanistan, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Israel, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia and the Syrian Arab Republic. While polio is currently only endemic in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, surrounding states are now thought to be under threat.

The last time WHO declared a state of emergency of this nature it was in 2009 as a rallying call to tackle what scientists said could be the global pandemic H1N1 or bird-flu virus. WHO does this only when it believes there is well-supported evidence that an infectious disease, while perhaps currently confined to only a handful of states, has risen in prevalence sufficiently so as to potentially cause an international health crisis. In polio’s case, this would mean causing a reemergence in states that have managed, in terms of all significant measures, to eradicate the disease.

2. What is Polio and Why is Polio So Bad?

Polio is a highly infections disease that mainly affects children under the age of five. Polio is insidious in that many people who become infected with polio do not in fact display any symptoms at all, but are carriers for the disease and, should their feces find its way into contaminating food or the water supply, often due to poor waste management and overall bad levels of sanitation, others can quickly become infected. For children, the results can be especially dire.

Polio can cause fever (and all the associated dangers of a fever) as well as severe fatigue, headaches and vomiting, as well as pain in the limbs. It can also cause permanent paralysis.

3. What is the Current Situation with Polio?

There are nations where polio has been entirely eradicated, most recently in India. However, the international spread of polio between nations continues to be a concern. WHO estimates based on global reporting that, by the end of 2013, 60 percent of all polio cases were in fact caused due to travel between nations, and that more and more adult travelers are contributing to the disease’s spread. Even during the 2014 low transmission time (i.e. the early months of this year), WHO has become increasingly concerned about how the wild poliovirus has appeared to spread from three out of the 10 aforementioned states into other states, for instance from Pakistan and into Afghanistan.

4. Why is This Particularly a Problem Now?

War appears to be a main enabler for the spread of polio at this time. That’s because in states that have been polio free, the immunization program that has kept people healthy for so long has now been either seriously hampered or suspended entirely. War and its aftermath also means that the states are hampered when it comes to even mobilizing a response. Governments taking a lax approach to combating polio will, obviously, always be a concern and Pakistan in particular has been charged with not putting enough emphasis on preventing polio being spread.

5. What Does WHO Want Global Authorities to Do About Polio?

WHO wants affected states to immediately implement what are known as polio eradication strategies. These include but aren’t limited to using an oral poliovirus vaccine to supplement the traditional delivery method, increased tracking of the virus and also putting in place mechanisms for future consistent and routine immunizations. This sounds simple but is likely to hinge on global intervention in terms of both monetary funds and aid work.

To put this crisis in perspective, worldwide figures for polio infection show that in 1988 there were 350,000 cases of polio. After concerted efforts like the polio management strategies outlined above, that figure had fallen to just 417 in 2013. However, in just the first five months of 2014, 74 cases of polio have reportedly been identified, 59 of them in Pakistan.

So, for once this “state of emergency” is not scaremongering. There is a very real danger that polio could begin to gain ground in war-affected countries and further hamper our efforts to help populations who are in the midst of such crises. That doesn’t mean we’re under any immediate danger of a polio resurgence in places like the UK and the United States, but it does mean we need to take this problem seriously.

It also serves to illustrate, yet again, the malignancy of anti-vaccine propaganda and how it is important to combat the spread of disinformation at home so as to ensure that our so-called herd immunity stays strong.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.


Janice Thompson
Janice Thompson2 years ago

Polio - a population control.

Robert Hamm
Robert Hamm2 years ago

LOLOLOL Barb yes I am sure many Homeopathic orgnaizations are took. THey make huge money if people use their stuff instead of vaccines. There are always two sides to every story. Is why I keep using the work perspective.

Barbara D.
Past Member 2 years ago

It's ironic how the anti-vaxxers are always a step behind. We've been pointing out how the *BigConspiracy* theory is so ridiculous ~ in this case that more money would be made treating sick people than preventing illness with vaccines.
Then...CLICK...light bulb....Oh. yeah....!!
And the next you know they're writing articles about how the *BigConspiracy*is funding the anti-vaxxers.
Shades of Smillin' Joe MurkyCola.

Robert Hamm
Robert Hamm2 years ago

All of life is a gamble everything we eat is a gamble any meds we take are a gamble. They could affect everone of us badly. BUT we cant outlaw them…..because for MANY they give them their life back. its a gamble we all take or we sit around frozen in time and on the stump we occupy at the moment. Perspective.

Robert Hamm
Robert Hamm2 years ago

Homeopathic medicine has been around a long time…..some people swear by it it some don't. It doesnt appear to hurt anyone so it wiil likely remain around.

I understand there are strong passions about all this. I dont argue from positions of passions. Passion tends to cloud the brain with emotions. In the end it doesnt matter what either side thinks. They are not going to ask laymen like us what they should do.

No I ddont work for any pharma I work for a credit card processing company. Most of the people that has been part of this discussion the last few weeks are regulars here that never talk about meds……chances are they are not big phram plants.

Its ok if we disagree……..we have all had our say. As more information presents itself to everyone in a fashion they can accept it from, things may change. I dont take my medical advice from vitamin slaesman or homeopathic merchant houses. You have every right to accept that if you wish, but you have to allow us the same respect and stop calling people priestesses of vaccines and agents of death.

AS I said MANY more people die from NON vaccine issues. Many more people get sick from many medicines they are allergic to. They get sick from food they didnt know they were alleric to. Some people are going to get sick because of whatever they ingest. Keep it in perspective people.

Robert Hamm
Robert Hamm2 years ago

The point here is simple really. Sitting on a blog like this bitching about vaccines is going to accomplish absolutely nothing. The people that will decide if vaccines become mandatory or not don't read these blogs nor do they read homeopathic medicine blogs.

It all well and good to want your personal freedoms honored……but you don't live in the country alone any more than I do. NONE of us will get to decide whether they become mandatory or not and they surely are not going to look at vitamin shops and alternate medicine sites to take their advice from. They will make the most educated guess they can for the largest number of people. if they guess wrong they will end up in a courtroom. Either way it will not be the end of the world. MANY more kids die from NON vaccine problems than they do vaccine problems. Thats why persepctive IS important whether YOU wish it to be or not. Everyone has had a good two weeks to speak for their particular side. I dodnt know the answer……neither do you. You have lots of questions and guesses and POSSIBLE connections.

Sitting in here bashing the hell out of each other all day will not affect any of this one way or the other. Even after all the bashing we are still just guessing……and yes even the most adamant anti vaxxer IS guessing. There SEEMS to be connections that make you wonder. But in the end your guessing against vaccines and the rest of us are less sure.

Robert Hamm
Robert Hamm2 years ago

more deflection