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About Sickkids
About SickKids

September 10, 2013

Winning the polio wars: SickKids researcher contributes to global conversation

By Erin Collett

Since the launch of the Global Polio Eradication initiative some 25 years ago, the number of polio cases has drastically improved. In a commentary in the September 4 issue of JAMA Dr. Zulfiqar A. Bhutta, Director of Research at the new Centre for Global Child Health at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) discusses the wins, the challenges and where the initiative is headed today.

Created by the World Health Organization, the Initiative has reduced the number of poliomyelitis cases from more than 350,000 spread over 125 countries to a mere 223 cases in 2012. These cases are largely restricted to a few regions of Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

According to Bhutta, the three remaining endemic countries are similar in that they all face underlying conflict, insurgency and humanitarian emergencies. It’s important to note that although the three remaining countries are much smaller in size and population than India, the major polio eradication success of the last decade, these remaining pockets of poliomyelitis may also be the most difficult to eradicate and could be a source of reinfection in other populations.

In 2011, an emergency plan to eliminate polio by 2018 was launched by the governments in these countries and supplemented by Global Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan.

In the JAMA article Bhutta points to key elements of the new approach that are different  from past efforts, which include the focus on ending all polio disease (wild and vaccinated), an emphasis on improving immunization systems in key areas in each country, community engagement and the introduction of new, affordable polio vaccine options for managing long-term poliovirus risks.

For more information on the progress and pitfalls of the Global Polio Eradication initiative, the full commentary can be read online:  http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1734711.