Stories tagged polio

The World Health Organization today declared Somalia "polio free." (The last case of polio in the country was reported March 25, 2007; there hasn't been a single infection in the last year.) Health workers wiped out the disease by repeatedly vaccinating all 1.8 million Somali children under age 5.

Polio is extremely contagious and hard to eradicate, and Somalia's achievement is even more amazing given the country's challenges: war, poverty, hunger, no central government, and a lack of detailed medical data.

One more thing: the BBC article linked to above contains this quote from Ali Mao Moallim, a volunteer health worker who also happens to be the last person on Earth to have contracted smallpox:

"Somalia was the last country with smallpox. I wanted to help ensure that we would not be the last place with polio, too."



A new vaccination strategy in India could finally eliminate polio by the end of the decade.

In northern India, particularly Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the polio virus persists, despite good vaccination coverage, due to overcrowded living conditions and poor sanitation. Researchers at the Imperial College in London say that the three polio strains in the trivalent vaccine can interfere with each other inside the body, producing immunity to one strain but not another. So switching from a vaccine that protects against three strains of polio to a vaccine that protects only against the dominant one, along with stepped up vaccination efforts, could help eliminate the virus from its few remaining reservoirs.

More polio stories on the Buzz:

Polio in Minnesota

Minnesota's polio hero

Polio jumps an ocean to Indonesia


The Minnesota Department of Health has confirmed five cases of polio in Amish children in Minnesota. All five cases have been from the same Amish community near Clarissa, Minnesota. The last significant outbreak of polio was in 1979 and occurred primarily in Amish communities in Pennsylvania.

Polio Virus: Illustration of polio virus. Courtsey of CDC/Barbara Rice.

Polio, or Poliomyelitis, is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus. Polio mainly infects children, especially those under the age of three. At the peak of the polio epidemic in 1952, nearly 60,000 cases, resulting in 3,000 deaths, were reported in the United States. There are four forms of polio.

  • 95% of polio infections are asymptomatic, meaning they produce no symptoms at all.

The remaining 5% of polio cases result in physical symptoms.

  • Abortive polio is similar to the flu.
  • Nonparalyic polio causes sensitivity to light and sore muscles.
  • Paralytic polio, the most severe form, causes permanent muscle paralysis.

None of the five reported victims are showing symptoms of paralytic polio.

Polio was virtually eliminated from the Western hemisphere in the late 20th century after the polio vaccine became widely available, but the disease continues to cause illness in other parts of the world.

Polio Vaccination Poster: This 1964 poster featured what at that time, was CDC's national symbol of public health, the "Wellbee", who here was reminding the public to get a booster vaccination. Image courtsey of the CDC/ Mary Hilpertshauser.

Most everyone nowadays is vaccinated for Polio. But vaccinations are not common in the Amish community. Still, Amish are not the only group that do not get vaccinations: in Minnesota, about 2% of parents opt out of vaccination programs for school age children. Doctors across the country are using this outbreak to encourage members of the Amish community, and those outside of the Amish community who have opted out of the vaccination programs, to reconsider their decisions and get vaccinated.