Since the initiative was launched by the assembly in 1988, the number of polio cases have reduced by 99%. The remaining 1% of cases can be found in the two countries with endemic polio – Pakistan and Afghanistan.This is one of those rare moments when we humans deserve to stand up and congratulate ourselves. Go ahead, pat yourself on your back.
Note that AfPak is the problem, in more ways than one! The other notorious home for polio, Nigeria, is off the list; what an achievement, right?
It has been one full year since polio was detected anywhere in Africa, a significant milestone in global health that has left health experts around the world quietly celebrating.
A quiet celebration because of the recognition that the virus can always stage a comeback. After three continuous years of no cases, the real celebration will begin.
“This is a big success, but it’s still fragile,” said Dr. Hamid Jafari, the initiative’s World Health Organization director. “There’s always a worry that there could be an undetected case in a population you’re not reaching.”
If you are like me, you then wonder how public health experts go around seeking confirmation. (Maybe it is a good thing you are not like me, eh!)
How does one go about finding the polio virus across the expanse of an entire country or continent? There are now far fewer polio virus needles in the global haystack, which is fantastic news. But the remaining ones become even more difficult to find. We can’t stamp out a disease if we don’t know where it is. But with polio we do know where it is—and we know thanks to poop.And now, if you are like me, you are puzzled. What has poop got to do with polio. That's how ignorant I am; turns out that all these years I hadn't bothered to find out how polio spreads!
When children get polio, the virus grows in their intestines and is excreted in the stool, and from there it spreads to other children. That’s why it has been so tough to beat polio in areas with poor sanitation.No kidding; now I understand why India eliminating polio within the country is such a cause for astonishment. A country with extremely poor sanitation facilities managed to wipe out polio. That's phenomenal!
The last case of polio in India was reported in 2011, an achievement once thought impossible. The country once suffered from more polio cases than anywhere else in the world, and the combination of dense populations, poor sanitation, and weak routine immunization programs led experts to suggest it would be the last place on Earth to drive out polio. Today, India’s polio story is one of historic success.What more evidence does one need that we humans can achieve remarkable success, despite all the hurdles!
Since 1988, more than US$9 billion has been invested into the global polio eradication initiative.What a wonderful use of nine billion dollars! Let me put this in perspective:
The Marine Corps, the ascetic tribe of “Devil Dogs” that prides itself on being “the first to fight,” is getting a new weapon, announcing Friday that its version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is, at long last, ready to be unleashed in combat.Got that? 400 billion dollars. For fucking fighter planes! Ok, I shouldn't rant about the military expenditure because I want to bring you only the good news in this post ;)
The announcement comes after years of testing and development, marking a significant milestone for the sometimes-beleaguered, often-criticized and always controversial $400 billion program, which is years behind its original schedule and billions of dollars over its original budget.
So, brother, can you spare me a dime. Er, make that a billion dollars. To launch something similar to the war against polio. Against the Ebola virus:
Last month, the New England Journal of Medicine published a bold proposal by three doctors for an international vaccine fund with an initial capitalization of $2 billion. That is far less than the $8 billion that Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, which had the most Ebola cases, say they need for recovery. Bringing a single new vaccine to market costs between $500 million and $1 billion.
The fund would be a boon to the biotechnology companies and university research centers that are already working on vaccines but don’t have the resources to get drugs approved and manufactured. And it would save lives.
Don't try telling me that we don't have the money for it. You can never, ever convince me about lack of money. Will stop here before I take off on a rant on our misplaced priorities! ;)