Africa declared free of wild polio

Africa is free of wild poliovirus, after decades of vaccination campaigns, according to news reports.

An independent body called the Africa Regional Certification Commission (ARCC) for Polio Eradication made the announcement today (Aug. 25) during a World Health Organization (WHO) videoconference, Reuters reported. Of the 47 countries within the WHO’s Africa region, Nigeria eradicated the virus most recently, and now, four years have passed since the country’s most recent wild polio case.

Polio usually affects children under five, sometimes leading to irreversible paralysis. Death can occur when breathing muscles are affected.

Twenty-five years ago thousands of children in Africa were paralysed by the virus, BBC reported. The disease is now only found in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

There is no cure but the polio vaccine protects children for life.

Nigeria is the last African country to be declared free from wild polio, having accounted for more than half of all global cases less than a decade ago.

The vaccination campaign in Nigeria involved a huge effort to reach remote and dangerous places under threat from militant violence and some health workers were killed in the process.

Polio is a virus which spreads from person to person, usually through contaminated water. It can lead to paralysis by attacking the nervous system.