Overview - Polio

© UNICEF/IDSA/040/Estey

The Polio virus can paralyze or kill. It is carried in human waste and transmitted in water. It is highly infectious and usually attacks children under the age of five. Just 20 years ago, polio paralyzed 1000 children each day in nearly every corner of the world. But in 1988, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative was launched, and by 2004, only 1,266 cases were reported worldwide, a majority of them in just six countries. Less than a year ago, the race for a polio-free world seemed to be entering its final stage.

In early March last year, Indonesia reported its first case of polio in a decade and lost its status as a polio-free country when a 20-month-old baby in West Java was infected with the viral disease. Analysis of the virus showed it had traveled here thousands of miles from northern Nigeria. Polio has since spread to other parts of Indonesia through pockets of un-immunized children. Polio can cause paralysis and death, and tends to spread quickly, infecting others mainly through poor sanitation.

Unless polio is stopped, it could spread rapidly throughout the country and to neighboring nations, attacking children wherever immunization rates are low.

With 302 cases to date, Indonesia now represents a fifth of total global polio cases for last year.

Indonesia is the 16th country to be re-infected by the virus in the past year. Many fear that the mounting polio cases in Indonesia will turn Indonesia into an exporter of the virus to other countries, particularly in East Asia. The recent polio outbreak in Indonesia is therefore a health crisis with global implications.

(Read about UNICEF's response for Polio in Indonesia)



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