WHO: Nigeria no longer on polio endemic shortlist

NEW YORK, Sept. 26 (UPI) — The World Health Organization announced Friday it has taken Nigeria off the list of polio endemic countries.

In an announcement made in New York, the WHO reports no new “wild” cases of the paralyzing disease have been reported in the country for a full year.

The country is still not certified polio-free, however, and must remain polio-free for two more years to achieve certification. Nigeria’s being taken off the endemic list, however, proves a feat as it was in 2012 the home of over half of the world’s polio cases.

Thanks to a combined effort of civil and religious leaders, citizens, health workers and the government, Nigeria has successfully halted the spread of the disease, which mostly affects children and can result in irreversible paralysis.

The WHO reports more than 200,000 volunteers have contributed to the country’s success in immunizing over 45 million children under five years old. The establishment of emergency care centers has also helped, the organization said.

“Stopping polio in Nigeria has been a clear example that political engagement, strong partnerships and community engagement are the engines that drive the momentum of public health programs, enabling them to achieve great things,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa. “I would like to congratulate everyone, particularly political, religious and community leaders in Nigeria and across Africa, for reaching a year without cases of wild polio.”

Only two other countries now appear on the WHO’s polio endemic list: Afghanistan and Pakistan. This year, 41 total cases of polio have been reported worldwide with 32 of them coming from Pakistan and 9 from Afghanistan. Everywhere else, reports say, the naturally occurring spread of the disease is virtually stopped.

The consistent immunization of every child in Nigeria will ensure it remains polio-free. BBC reports the country has shifted its primary form of vaccination from oral to injectable doses. The oral vaccines, in extremely rare circumstances, have been known to actually cause a form of polio described not as “wild” but vaccine-derived (cVDPV).

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