By Lisa O'Carroll
April 11, 2016 | The Guardian
The World Health Organisation is confident polio is in its dying days and could be eradicated within 12 months, despite challenges in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the virus is still endemic and vaccination campaigns are sometimes targeted by extremists.
If the virus is wiped out, polio will become only the second human-hosted virus to be eradicated since the end of smallpox in 1980.
“We absolutely need to keep the pressure up, but we think we could reach the point where we have truly interrupted the transmission at the end of the year or the end of the low season [winter] next year,” said Michel Zaffran, the WHO’s director of polio eradication.
So far this year, just nine cases of wild – as opposed to vaccine-derived – polio virus have been recorded: two in Afghanistan and seven in Pakistan. Noting that there were generally fewer cases of polio in the cold winter months, Zaffran said that, even if there was a spike in recorded cases during the summer, the WHO believed it could still end transmission by early next year.