Health officials in Nigeria are celebrating an impressive milestone: The country has gone one year without a single case of polio. The world is now one step closer to making polio the second human infectious disease – after smallpox – to be eradicated with an effective vaccination campaign.
Nigeria is now on the brink of eradicating the paralyzing disease, which predominately affects children under five. Polio (poliomyelitis) is a highly infectious disease, which invades the nervous system and can at times paralyze a victim in a matter of hours. The disease is caused by a virus that spreads through unhygienic environments. One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis and 5% to 10% among those paralyzed die.
There are only three countries where polio remains endemic – Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. If no cases are reported in the following weeks and the World Health Organization(WHO) confirms previously affected areas are free of the virus, Nigeria is expected to be removed from the list of countries where polio is endemic.