Every year, on October 24, World Polio Day shines a spotlight on the worldwide campaign to eliminate polio and underscores the critical importance of vaccination in shielding children from this debilitating disease. It’s a day to honor the dedicated efforts of parents, caregivers, healthcare professionals, and volunteers who work tirelessly to ensure that polio vaccines reach every child and community. This year holds particular significance for India, as it marks 12 years of the country’s triumphant journey as a polio-free nation, with the last recorded case dating back to 2011.
World Polio Day serves as a potent reminder of the pivotal role of vaccination, especially the oral polio vaccine (OPV), in thwarting poliovirus. OPV is highly effective, generating antibodies in the bloodstream to guard against all three strains of the virus. In the event of exposure, it acts as a barrier, preventing the virus from infiltrating the nervous system and causing polio paralysis.
Administered orally, this vaccine can be given alone or in conjunction with other vaccines like diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, and haemophilus influenza. Typically, three spaced doses are administered to ensure adequate seroconversion, and a booster dose is administered in late childhood to fortify polio prevention.
It’s worth noting that the majority of polio virus carriers do not display any symptoms. However, approximately 1 in 4 individuals with the virus may experience mild symptoms such as a sore throat, fever, fatigue, nausea, headache, and abdominal pain. In some cases, the virus can lead to severe complications affecting the brain and spinal cord, manifesting as conditions like meningitis or paralysis in the limbs.
World Polio Day is a significant occasion in the ongoing battle against polio. On this day, major health organizations, including Rotary International and WHO, recognize and celebrate the unwavering commitment of individuals and groups worldwide dedicated to eradicating polio. The observance underscores the need to prevent any resurgence of the virus and encourages fundraising efforts to reach the ultimate goal of complete polio eradication.
To mark World Polio Day, Rotary International and other organizations host diverse events aimed at raising awareness about polio. These activities take various forms, ranging from rallies and walks to organizing contests in educational institutions.
In 1988, the world witnessed approximately 350,000 polio cases, prompting the World Health Assembly to pledge the global eradication of the poliovirus. The WHO European Region achieved polio-free status in 2002, and ever since, October 24 has been commemorated annually as World Polio Day, highlighting the journey towards global polio eradication.
- WHO Head: Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
- WHO Founded: April 7, 1948
- WHO Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland