Posted on Feb 20, 2018
The world is zeroing in on the end of polio — by stopping people at bus stops, airports and train stations
Children get the polio vaccine in their house in Kabul. Afghanistan and Pakistan are the only countries that saw new cases last year.

Children get the polio vaccine in their house in Kabul. Afghanistan and Pakistan are the only countries that saw new cases last year.  

(TOMAS MUNITA / The Associated Press)

This year will likely be the last to see new cases, and only in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It’s a huge step toward official eradication, which has only ever happened once before.

When Ramesh Ferris was born in southern India in 1979, there were an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 new cases of polio being recorded around the globe each year.

At 6 months of age, he became one of them.

“The polio virus paralyzed my legs,” he says.

Then, two things happened that were tantamount to miracles, says Ferris, who would become an activist in the fight against the disease.

“I came to Canada, where I received corrective surgery … and learned to walk for the first time at the age of three and a half,” says Ferris, who was adopted at age 2 by Anglican bishop Ron Ferris of the Yukon.

 

More remarkably, the disease that was once a global scourge — a thief of childhood everywhere — has been all but eradicated from the earth. This year could see its complete disappearance outside of virus labs, experts say.

 Ramesh Ferris administering the polio vaccine to a child in Pakistan. The Canadian, infected as a child, has worked on vaccination campaigns in Pakistan and promoted the cause.

Ramesh Ferris administering the polio vaccine to a child in Pakistan. The Canadian, infected as a child, has worked on vaccination campaigns in Pakistan and promoted the cause.  (Supplied)

Last year, there were only 22 reported new cases of polio, which has been confined now to just a pair of nations: Pakistan and Afghanistan.

But 60 years ago, it held this country and much of the world in terror, with images of children in iron lungs plastered in newspapers everywhere — and no vaccine or cure in sight.

In the Canada of the 1950s, hundreds died and thousands — mostly youngsters — were paralyzed by the disease. In 1953 alone, some 9,000 Canadians contracted polio, which left 500 dead that year.

“Eradication of a disease does not happen often,” says Oliver Rosenbauer, a spokesperson for the World Health Organization in Geneva.

“In fact it’s only ever happened once before, with the eradication of smallpox. So that’s what we’re after.”

Patients with polio often required Iron lungs until Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine was introduced in 1955.

Patients with polio often required Iron lungs until Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine was introduced in 1955.  (Toronto Star file photo)

To read the rest of this article please go to:  https://www.thestar.com/news/insight/2018/02/16/the-world-is-zeroing-in-on-the-end-of-polio-by-stopping-people-at-bus-stops-airports-and-train-stations.html

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