WHO updates fact sheet on Poliomyelitis (15 October 2015)

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently updated its fact sheet on Poliomyelitis (polio).

Key Messages:

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It invades the nervous system, and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours.

One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis (usually in the legs).

5-10% of those infected may die due to paralysis of muscles required for breathing.

The disease mainly affects children less than 5 years of age.

Polio cannot be cured- it can only be prevented by administering polio vaccine multiple times.

Polio cases have decreased by over 99% since 1988, from an estimated 350 000 cases in more than 125 endemic countries then, to 359 reported cases in 2014.

Today, only 2 countries- Afghanistan and Pakistan- remain endemic for the disease.

Of the 3 strains of wild poliovirus (type 1, type 2, and type 3), wild poliovirus type 2 was eradicated in 1999 and case numbers of wild poliovirus type 3 are down to the lowest-ever levels with the no cases reported since November 2012 from Nigeria.

Endemic transmission is continuing in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Failure to stop polio in these last remaining areas could result in as many as 200 000 new cases every year, within 10 years, all over the world.

Economic modelling has found that the eradication of polio would save at least US$ 40–50 billion over the next 20 years, mostly in low-income countries.

Useful Links:

Link to the updated fact sheet:


Link to the page “What is vaccine derived polio?”:


Link to “10 facts on Polio eradication”:


Link to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative web site:


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