A new oral polio vaccine is making headlines today — and small wonder. Polio may have been wiped out in America, but that’s not true for parts of Africa. And it’s there that a new vaccine may finally put an end to the crippling disease.
The bivalent oral polio vaccine, known as bOPV, immunizes children in high-risk countries for two key strains of the polio virus in one shot, according to findings published in Lancet on Tuesday. World Health Organization scientist Roland Sutter hailed the vaccine that could “get us to the finish line of polio eradication,” Reuters reports.
Polio is highly infectious and can cause paralysis in hours, sometimes reinfecting countries that had been clear of the disease.
“As long as a single child remains infected with polio, children in all countries are at risk of contracting the disease. The polio virus can easily be imported into a polio-free country and can spread rapidly among unimmunised populations. Between 2003 and 2005, 25 previously polio-free countries were re-infected due to importations. The four polio-endemic countries are Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan.” Read more about symptoms and spread of polio in the WHO fact sheet.
The first outbreak in the United States was reported in Vermont in 1894; by 1916, it was a nationwide epidemic. Here’s a look back at the history of polio, and wouldn’t it be great if that look back stays a look back?