24 October: World Polio Day
The World Polio Day is observed annually across world on 24 October to create awareness about the hazards of the crippling Polio disease.
The day was established by Rotary International to commemorate birth of Jonas Salk who had led the first team of researchers which had developed a vaccine against poliomyelitis (polio virus). This development had led to widespread use of this inactivated poliovirus vaccine and subsequently use of the oral poliovirus, developed by Albert Sabin. It also had led to establishment of Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) in 1988 which has helped to reduce polio worldwide by 99%.
Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI)
GPEI launched in 1988 has played pivotal role in eradication of wild poliovirus. When it was launched wild poliovirus existed in 125 countries. Now, it exists in two countries Pakistan and Afghanistan. Till 2012, Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country was reservoir of more than half of the Polio cases in the world. But in 2015, it was removed from list of Polio endemic countries by World Health Organization (WHO).
Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious viral disease, which mainly affects young children below age of 5. The virus is transmitted from person-to-person. It mainly spreads through the faecal-oral route (e.g. contaminated water or food). After entering body, it multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system and can cause paralysis. Its initial symptoms include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck, and pain in the limbs. In some cases, it causes permanent paralysis. There is no cure for polio, however it can only be prevented by immunization. Polio vaccine is given multiple times, almost always protects a child for life.