Polio is a highly infectious viral disease that it invades the nervous system, and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. The virus is transmitted from person-to-person through ingestion of infected fecal matter. Following infection, the virus is shed intermittently in excrement for several weeks with little or no symptoms in majority of cases. The initial symptoms of poliomyelitis include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, neck stiffness and pain in the limbs.

    In 1988, when WHO and partners established the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, aiming to eradicate polio, the disease was paralysing over 1000 children per day and was active in all countries of the Region. The African Region has not had wild polio cases in over a year. 

    Factors that have contributed to the progress in polio eradication in the Region inlcude:

    • Commitment of political leaders
    • Implementation of intensive surveillance activities in all countries of the Region
    • Polio laboratory network made up of 16 laboratories providing critical information, including genetic sequencing data
    • Innovative approaches in social mobilization and communication to overcome misconceptions and rumours
    • Cross-border collaboration and the implementation of synchronized immunization campaigns across large numbers of countries simultaneously
    • Use of improved vaccines and new technologies to improve vaccination coverage

    Polio update on country situations

    Nigeria and the Lake Chad countries

    The Democratic Republic of the Congo

    West, Central and Horn of Africa

    Related Links 

    Polio eradication certification

    Circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (VDPV2) Key messages

    Q&A: Circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (VDPV2)

    Q&A: Global Polio Eradication Initiative 

    African vaccination week

    Disease Outbreak

    There is no Disease Outbreak data at this time

    World Polio Day

    24 October 2017

    World Polio Day was established by Rotary International over a decade ago to commemorate the birth of Jonas Salk, who led the first team to develop a vaccine against poliomyelitis. Use of this inactivated poliovirus vaccine and subsequent widespread use of the oral poliovirus, developed by Albert Sabin, led to the establishment of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) in 1988. As of 2013, GPEI had reduced polio worldwide by 99%.

    Polio is a crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease. There is no cure, but there are safe and effective vaccines. Polio can be prevented through immunization. Polio vaccine, given multiple times, almost always protects a child for life. The strategy to eradicate polio is therefore based on preventing infection by immunizing every child until transmission stops and the world is polio-free.

    Message of the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, on World Polio Day, 24 October 2017

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