The World Health Organization (WHO) European Region announced that June 21 marked ten years since it was certified free of polio. Recertification was announced at the 26th meeting of the European Regional Commission for the Certification of Poliomyelitis Eradication (RCC) in Copenhagen, Denmark.
According to a WHO press release, certification followed years of internationally coordinated vaccination campaign efforts by member states, supported by a public-private coalition of WHO, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Rotary International, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Stopping transmission of indigenous wild poliovirus in the 53 countries in the region was a landmark in the effort to eradicate polio globally, and helped accelerate international momentum towards that goal, said the WHO. However, the WHO cautions that surveillance is not consistently high across the European region, and a real risk remains of an outbreak from an importation of virus.
Polio is at its lowest levels since records began, and earlier this year India celebrated its first year without polio. Poliovirus remains endemic in parts of only three countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria. As of June 19, Afghanistan has reported eight cases year to date, Pakistan 22 cases, and Nigeria 45 cases.
Until polio is eradicated worldwide, however, all polio-free regions, including the European Region, remain at risk of importation, according to the WHO. Fully managing this risk requires maintaining rapid virus detection and high immunity in European countries, as well as helping to stop transmission in the remaining countries where polio is endemic.