Polio eradicated in Nigeria

The U.N. General Assembly met with the Nigerian delegation to discuss recent achievements in the fight against polio in the West African country on Oct. 29.

In 2012, more than a half of the world’s polio cases were concentrated in Nigeria. In 2015, there were none.

Polio, also known as poliomyelitis, is a highly contagious viral disease that is closely related to the inflammation of the spinal cord and the brain. It causes breathing problems, muscle paralysis and even death.

“In the past, there was a large number of people with polio because of little awareness on polio and scarcity of treatments and vaccines,” said Munkaila Samira, a junior chemistry major and an international student from Ghana.

The polio virus is transmitted through a fecal-oral route via the stool of the infected.

“People contract the disease from contaminated food, water and feces, which is common to find in the rural areas with poor sanitation,” said Lesley-Anne Quartey Manuh ’15, an alumnus from Ghana who graduated with a degree in biology.

“The lack of education makes it harder for people to get the vaccine because of fear of (the) unknown. In Ghana it is strongly encouraged to get the vaccine when you are very young.”

Any person who has a weak immune system or has not been immunized, is susceptible to developing polio symptoms. Children and pregnant women are at a higher risk of catching the disease.

“Every child is given the polio vaccine twice a year for protection,” said Uroupaere Koripamo, a Nigerian first-year. “One is actually meant to be given immediately or few weeks after the child’s birth. Although polio has not stopped spreading (until recently) in Nigeria, it has been drastically reduced with the increased awareness among adults and youngsters, higher availability of medications and easy access to pharmacies and hospitals.”

To become a polio-free country, more than 200,000 anti-polio activists across Nigeria immunized more than 45 million children under the age of five, and state and national emergency operations centers were established, as cited by the World Health Organization.

It is due to dedicated health workers, government officials, civilians and religious leaders that Nigeria has successfully eradicated the disease.