Get Ready To Say, ‘Bye, Felicia’ To Polio

Completely relevant FDR portrait by Jason Heuser.

Polio is in its final days, and it’s starting to look like either polio or dracunculiasis will be the third disease ever to be completely eradicated, proceeded by smallpox (last human case in 1977) and rinderpest (last animal case in 2010).

This week, Peter Crowley of UNICEF told NPR, “We are aiming to halt all transmission of wild polio virus next year.” The plan is to continue distributing the vaccine for awhile after then to be certain it’s over. Right now, it’s reasonable to estimate the last case of polio will occur in 2018 or sooner. Considering dracunculiasis eradication has had a recent setback with the disease infecting canines and spreading to humans from there, polio may prove to be the next disease successfully eradicated.

There are now only two nations left which have detected wild polio cases this year: Afghanistan and Pakistan. To put things in perspective, those two countries have had 51 cases reported so far this year. In 1988, when the Global Polio Eradication Initiative launched, there were 350,000 cases annually. And this is a disease which paralyzes one out of every 200 people infected and kills around one out of every 2,000 to 4,000 infected, most of them under the age of five. In 1952 (the year Jonas Salk developed the first effective polio vaccine), polio permanently paralyzed 20,000 people in the U.S. during only that one year.

And we’re this close to wiping it off the face of the Earth, thanks to vaccines.

Long story short, vaccinate your damn kids.

(Via NPR and Bad Astronomy)