September 6, 2013
CDC Continues to Support the Global Polio Eradication Effort
The eradication of polio is an important priority for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We are closer than we have ever been to eradicating polio and it is critical that we take advantage of this opportunity.
On December 2, 2011, CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, activated CDC’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to strengthen the agency’s partnership engagement through theGlobal Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), which is committed to completing the eradication of polio. On December 14, Dr. Frieden enlisted the support of the entire CDC community to become active participants in an intensified effort to eradicate polio worldwide.
In the final push toward global polio eradication, CDC continues its close collaboration with partners, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Rotary International, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to ensure a coordinated global and country-level response.
CDC polio eradication activities and staff have moved into the EOC operational structure to ensure maximum use of CDC resources to support polio eradication, and to scale up timely technical expertise and support for polio-infected countries (Chad, Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan) and for countries at risk of polio outbreaks (at-risk countries), in coordination with GPEI partners.
Since December 2, 2011, approximately 480 workers have supported CDC’s polio eradication efforts in the EOC and in the field. Of these, 139 workers have completed 442 field deployments to Angola, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, and other areas. Each day an average of 60-70 people are working on polio eradication in CDC’s EOC.
Activation of the EOC has provided enhanced capacity for CDC’s STOP Transmission of Polio (STOP) program, which trains public health volunteers in the United States and globally to improve polio surveillance and help plan, implement, and evaluate vaccination campaigns. Since December 2, 2011, 640 individuals have been deployed to work with the STOP program in a number of countries, including Chad and Kenya.
In addition, the EOC has provided enhanced capacity to scale up in-country technical expertise and support for – polio surveillance, planning, implementation, and monitoring of polio vaccination campaigns – strengthening routine immunization, strengthening management and accountability.
A few additional examples of CDC polio eradication activities include:
- An in-depth review of priority countries’ polio eradication plans to assess program gaps and training needs, and elaboration of plans for CDC’s engagement in those countries.
- Publication of several joint World Health Organization Weekly Epidemiologic Record/CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports (MMWR) highlighting polio eradication progress inAfghanistan and Pakistan, Africa, Chad, and Nigeria.
- Collaboration with GPEI partners on detailed country-plans for expanded technical and management support, including assistance with outbreak responses, surveillance reviews, vaccination campaign planning and monitoring, and data management.
- Provision of operational support to Nigeria for the country’s FY 2012 Polio Eradication Emergency Response Plan. The plan focuses on enhancing management and leadership skills to improve program performance.
- The development of indicators for monitoring polio vaccination campaign performance in the areas of planning, implementation, and evaluation.
- Review of WHO proposed outbreak response protocols for all polio-affected countries
- Creation of plans for needs assessments of immunization systems in Chad and Angola.
The Global Push toward the Finish Line
Polio incidence has dropped more than 99 percent since the launch of global polio eradication efforts in 1988. According to global polio surveillance data from September 3, 2013, 250 polio cases have been reported from the following countries: Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia. In 2012, a total of 223 polio cases were reported from five countries: Afghanistan, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, and Pakistan. Of the 2012 polio cases, 97% (217 of the 223 cases) were reported from the three remaining endemic countries.
January 13, 2013 marked two years since a child was paralyzed by wild poliovirus in India. The country was once considered the most complex challenge to achieving global polio eradication. On February 25, 2012, WHO removed India, one of the four remaining endemic countries, from the list of countries considered to have never interrupted the transmission of wild poliovirus. India has not had a case of polio since January 13, 2011 and no recent environmental samples have detected wild poliovirus.
Activities continue in India to secure the gains achieved. Large-scale polio vaccination campaigns and active surveillance for acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) cases continue. Ongoing reports of AFP cases from India are fully expected. In fact, identification of high numbers of AFP cases means disease surveillance is working and enables India to quickly test cases to rule out polio as the cause.
While no polio cases have been detected in India for more than a year, poliovirus transmission is ongoing in the other three endemic countries – Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan. GPEI’s Independent Monitoring Board considers Nigeria and Pakistan to be the greatest challenges for eradicating polio.
In addition, Chad had eliminated polio in the past but have experienced reestablished transmission of poliovirus that has continued for more than one year, raising concerns that a window of opportunity to eradicate this crippling and sometimes deadly disease may be closing.
It is therefore imperative that we make this final push toward eradication one of our highest priorities. As Dr. Frieden has stated, “If we fail to get over the finish line, we will need to continue expensive control measures for the indefinite future…More importantly, without eradication, a resurgence of polio could paralyze more than 200,000 children worldwide every year within a decade.” Now is the time, we must not fail.