In the past few weeks, polio cases have been reported in several countries. Polio is an extremely contagious viral disease. Although up to 95% of those infected show no signs, roughly 1% suffer paralytic polio. Once a worldwide scourge, polio is now endemic (continually present) in only four countries: Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan. It is one of only two diseases with a global eradication program (the other is Guinea Worm Disease). The only diseases that have been globally eradicated are smallpox and rinderpest.
First, the good news: India has seen great progress toward its eradication goals, reporting only 39 cases in 2010 compared to 498 at this time last year. Unfortunately, flood ravaged Pakistan has seen an increase in polio cases this year. Also concerning are cases reported in non-endemic countries. Uganda reported a cluster of 5 pediatric polio cases last week. This week, a doctor in Pointe-Noire, Congo reported 8 deaths and 20 cases in a possible polio outbreak.