WHO updates fact sheet on Poliomyelitis (3 January 2019)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has updated its fact sheet on poliomyelitis (polio).

Background Information:

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It invades the nervous system, and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours.

The virus is transmitted by person-to-person spread mainly through the faecal-oral route or, less frequently, by a common vehicle (for example, contaminated water or food) and multiplies in the intestine.

Initial symptoms are

  • fever,
  • fatigue,
  • headache,
  • vomiting,
  • stiffness of the neck and
  • pain in the limbs.

1 in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis (usually in the legs). Among those paralysed, 5% to 10% die when their breathing muscles become immobilized.

Key Messages:

Cases due to wild poliovirus have decreased by over 99% since 1988, from an estimated 350 000 cases in 1988, to 29 reported cases in 2018.

In 2018, wild poliovirus infections were reported from only two countries:

  1. Afghanistan
  2. Pakistan

Only three countries have ongoing wild poliovirus transmission (are endemic for wild poliovirus):

  1. Afghanistan
  2. Nigeria (last case in 2016)
  3. Pakistan

polio 2013_2018 global_update_19dec18.pptx [read-only] - opera

As long as a single child remains infected, children in all countries are at risk of contracting polio. Failure to eradicate polio from these last remaining strongholds could result in as many as 200 000 new cases every year, within 10 years, all over the world.

In most countries, the global effort has expanded capacities to tackle other infectious diseases by building effective surveillance and immunization systems.

Useful Links:

Link to the updated WHO fact sheet:


Link to related news release (4 January 2019):


Link to the web site of Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI):


Link to GPEI page on Afghanistan:


Link to GPEI page on Pakistan:



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