We May Eradicate Polio Within the Year

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We May Eradicate Polio Within the Year

Polio is a disease that attacks the central nervous system, severing links between the brain and muscles, causing them to slowly waste away. Polio sufferers are marked by shrunken, shriveled limbs and paralysis. The disease typically causes some degree of paralysis in the extremities, though it has also been known to attack the lungs, resulting in death when the victim can no longer breathe on their own.

Polio has plagued the human race for all of recorded history and almost certainly for tens of thousands of years before that. And if the World Health Organization is right, we may finally eradicate polio within the next twelve months.

The vaccine for Polio was originally developed in 1953 by medical researcher Dr. Jonas Salk. Prior to the vaccine’s creation, Polio was a major cause of paralysis among people all over the world, including President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was left partially paralyzed by the disease in 1931.

After the initiation of a global vaccination program made possible by this discovery, today Polio is endemic in only three countries. For decades, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Afghanistan have been the last, stubborn refuges for the disease. Yet despite all the challenges, including armed gunmen in Pakistan, who have murdered health workers conducting the program on suspicion of being U.S. spies, at last even these countries have seen new cases dwindle to single digit numbers over the past several years.

This progress is giving hope to the people behind the vaccination programs who are now calling for one final push to eliminate this disease once and for all. If they successfully eradicate Polio, it would be only the second disease to have been declared eradicated in human history.

The first was Smallpox, which was eliminated in 1980, though a few samples still exist for research purposes. Before being eliminated in its natural strain, the disease was one of the deadliest plagues in human history, killing more than 300 million people in the 20th century alone. Though a vaccine was in use to prevent smallpox in the 19th century, in fact it was the first ever developed, it was only after a long, determined effort, like the one currently underway against Polio, that the battle against Smallpox was won.

If Polio can now also be eliminated it will be an immense monument to the progress of medical science. We will be one step closer to a future where children in any part of the world can live a life free of painful, crippling diseases. Time will tell if 2016 was the year we finally eradicated Polio, but one thing is clear: victory against the virus is coming. Soon.

If you would like to help make 2016 the year we eradicated Polio, you can donate to the WHO Initiative here.

Wyatt is a writer and your friend. You can follow him on Twitter @WyattRedd.

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