Nigeria is Polio-Free

Nigeria is Polio-FreeNigeria is Polio-Free

Nigeria has been declared free of transmission of polio, leaving just two countries in the world where the virus is still regularly spreading: Pakistan and Afghanistan.

It’s a big step towards the eradication of a disease that paralyzes children for life and that’s easy to prevent with a vaccine that costs just a few cents.

The World Health Organization announcement means that polio is no longer endemic in Nigeria, which was the last country in Africa with regular, ongoing transmission of the virus, reported

“Eradicating polio will be one of the greatest achievements in human history, and have a positive impact on global health for generations to come,” WHO said in a statement.

“Nigeria has brought the world one major step closer to achieving this goal and it’s critical that we seize this opportunity to end polio for good and ensure future generations of children are free from this devastating disease.”

Vaccine workers battled mistrust and rumors, and worked around attacks by the militant group Boko Haram, to get kids vaccinated against the paralyzing virus, said John Vertefeuille, polio incident manager for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“They would just go out day after day and make sure they were vaccinating the kids,” Vertefeuille told NBC News.

It’ll be two more years before Africa is declared polio-free. The virus can lurk in the body and it can go unreported in rural areas, so it takes a few years to be certain the virus isn’t popping up anywhere. But it is not being actively transmitted, WHO said. “The outstanding commitment and efforts that got Nigeria off the endemic list must continue, to keep Africa polio-free. We must now support the efforts in Pakistan and Afghanistan so they soon join the polio-free world,” said WHO director-general Dr. Margaret Chan.