Diseases: Europe has been without polio for 20 years

Geneva According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Melik, who later recovered a bit, became famous for being the last official case of polio in Europe. A few years later, on June 21, 2002, the WHO declared its European region with more than 50 countries free of polio. The 20th anniversary is a milestone, but not everyone looks rosy. The goal of entering the history of polio after smallpox was eradicated in 1980 has not yet been achieved. New conflicts, resettlement, migration and coronavirus pandemics are likely to push it further into the future. Routine vaccination discontinued due to pandemic Routine vaccination, including polio, has been discontinued in many countries during the pandemic, says Oliver Rosenbauer of the WHO polio eradication initiative in Geneva. “In some regions, children are now at higher risk of infections such as polio,” he says. “It also increases the risk of re-emergence of polio.” Polio – or polio – is a contagious infectious disease that can cause paralysis and death. Permanent damage may remain, especially in young children. The highly contagious virus often spreads through contaminated water. There is no complete cure yet. According to the WHO, about ten billion doses of the vaccine have been given in the last ten years. According to them, without this effort, 6.5 million children would develop polio. New cases in Africa The risk of new cases in countries without polio is real. Until recently, wild poliovirus circulated in virtually only Pakistan and Afghanistan, each with several cases. However, this year, for the first time since 2016, cases have been reported in Malawi and Mozambique, which are presumed to have been imported from Pakistan. Africa was not declared a polio-free area until 2020. There are also isolated cases in the WHO European Region, which stretches from Turkmenistan to Israel. According to the Robert Koch Institute, there were three cases in Germany in the early 1990s, but they did not spread. In addition to the wild-type virus, there are individual cases in which an attenuated disease is triggered by a live vaccine. According to the WHO, there have been fewer than 800 cases worldwide in ten years. In Germany, therefore, the Standing Committee on Vaccination (Stiko) has recommended the use of inactivated polio vaccines since 1998. The key to eradicating polio is to end the wild virus, says Rosenbauer. If it no longer circulates, vaccination is no longer necessary and the risk of vaccination polio is eliminated. “These types of vaccines are only being developed where there is not enough vaccination,” he says. According to the extermination initiative, this happened recently in Israel and Ukraine, before the war. WHO is working fully on the final strategy. By 2026, 370 million children in 50 countries will be vaccinated each year. That requires $ 4.8 billion, which should meet in October at a donors’ conference in Berlin. The federal government is one of the largest donors to the Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). This should reach the last child in the outermost region and ban polio once and for all on Earth.

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