Polio continues to be a public health emergency of international concern: Current updates

As the eradication of polio progresses, the World Health Organization has declared it a public health emergency of international concern and convened an emergency committee. This panel will discuss what the next steps should be to stop the spread of the disease and the potential risk of inter-country transmission. In addition, the WHO has also renewed its declaration of polio as a Public Heath Emergency of International Concern.

In March, the World Health Organization’s Emergency Committee convened to review the status of poliovirus outbreaks and the spread of vaccine-derived poliovirus. They concluded that the risks of the disease remain elevated and recommended extending the Temporary Recommendations by three months. The Committee noted the increased risk of the wild poliovirus 1, which was previously eliminated. Despite the positive news, the WHO continues to declare a polio outbreak as an emergency.

While there has been progress in eradicating polio in the DRC and Pakistan, the situation in Syria and DRC remains a concern. The security situation in these areas needs to be reviewed and improved. Besides the security arrangements, polio campaigns should be integrated with other public health programs, including vaccinations for measles and vitamin A. House-to-house campaigns are an effective way to reach remote communities and increase the likelihood of finding children who have not received a vaccine. Additional human resources are needed to support these efforts.

The Global Health Organization’s Emergency Committee met last year to assess progress on the eradication of polio and the status of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus. It was concerned about the possibility of re-establishing WPV in the region because of the lack of routine immunization. In addition, the WHO’s decision to recommend the transition of nOPV2 from an initial phase to a broader one is an encouraging development.

The United Nations Emergency Committee for Polio recently convened a meeting of the WHO’s Emergency Committee to assess the polio eradication efforts in the DRC, Nigeria, and Afghanistan. The committee members reviewed data regarding wild poliovirus and circulating vaccine-derived polovirus. It also expressed concern over the increase in cases of the eradication-resistant strain of poliovirus in these countries.

The CDC publishes joint MMWR/WHO Weekly Epidemiologic Records each week to track global polio eradication efforts. This report highlights the progress made by the international community in eradicating polio. GPEI also responds to the expanding Type 2 vaccine-derived poliovirus outbreaks in the DRC. As a result, the WHO’s proposed outbreak response protocols for all polio-affected countries should be closely monitored and implemented by national governmental bodies.

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