How Nigeria’s Anti-Polio Strategy Helped It Wipe Out Ebola
There are just three countries in the world where polio is still endemic: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria. Now, experts think it’s feasible for Nigeria to wipe out wild poliovirus within its borders this year, even as the country stays on high alert against Ebola.
If Nigeria does eradicate wild polio, it would be a big help to the rest of the world. Since 2003, polio has migrated from Nigeria to 31 polio-free countries. (Those countries were able to control the outbreaks.) But Nigeria hasn’t seen a single case of wild polio transmission since July. The country has had 21 cases of polio arising from vaccination in 2014, which happens in areas where some people are vaccinated, but many people are not, and sanitary conditions are poor. (The version of the polio vaccine that high-income countries use, including the U.S., does not give rise to circulating vaccine-derived polio.) Experts say finishing polio off will require only that the country keep doing what it’s doing, using a polio-vaccinating infrastructure that has been crucial to eliminating Ebola in the country, as well.
“They are poised to interrupt transmission, but they really need to continue to have the high-quality polio vaccination rounds and continue to have the political focus,” John Vertefeuille, a researcher from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who works with the Nigerian government on polio control, tells Popular Science. “We’re very impressed with the country right now.”