Afghanistan makes ‘remarkable progress’ in eradicating polio: WHO

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The World Health Organization in Afghanistan said Monday only two cases of polio have been reported in the country so far this year – a significant decrease on previous years.

Marking World Polio Day, October 24, WHO said in a tweet that “Afghanistan has made remarkable progress in eradicating polio.”

“From 56 children paralyzed by the virus in 2020, this year – to date – there are two (cases). There has never been a better time to rid Afghanistan of this virus,” the organization tweeted.

WHO’s Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, the Regional Director for Europe, meanwhile said at a press briefing on Monday that owing to vaccination campaigns, polio is “on the verge of becoming a story of the past.

“Globally, polio cases have fallen by 99% since the 1980s. We stand on the cusp of eradicating polio, which would make it only the second disease after smallpox to be consigned to history,” he said.

However, he said while large parts of the world are free of the virus, including Europe, this past year has seen signs of the virus in Israel, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.

This however was of the vaccine-derived polioviruses – a strain that has mutated from a weakened strain originally contained in the oral polio vaccine.

He said that such vaccine-derived poliovirus can spread in pockets of under-immunized persons, thus making it paramount to ensure high vaccination coverage in all population groups.

According to him, the linkages between the vaccine-derived virus strains recently detected in countries in the European Region and in New York, as well as the recently closed polio outbreak in Tajikistan caused by virus circulating in Afghanistan and Pakistan, clearly highlight that until polio is eradicated, every country will remain at risk of polio re-infection.