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Why Does Polio Still Exist in Africa?

Polio persists in Africa due to inadequate healthcare, limited access in rural areas, conflicts, and vaccine belief systems.

Polio persists in Africa

The CDC issued a travel alert about polio in Africa, specifically in Benin, on August 31, 2023. But why does wild polio still exist in Africa when in the United States, wild polio has been eliminated with no cases occurring in the country since 1979.

Did you know that despite years of efforts to eradicate polio in Africa, the disease still persists? Unfortunately, several deeply complex challenges make it difficult to completely eliminate polio from the continent.

Polio's persistence in Africa is attributed to multifaceted challenges. Inadequate healthcare infrastructure, limited access to remote areas, and socioeconomic disparities impede effective vaccination campaigns. Additionally, political instability in some regions hampers consistent healthcare delivery. 

Cultural beliefs play a significant role in polio non-vaccination, as the local population may hold misconceptions such as the vaccine is a trick of the devil or have cultural practices that influence their perception of vaccines. Vaccination programs to eliminate polio from Africa must encompass the body and mind.

As recently as the 1950s, polio was a common disease in the United States. Polio is a very dangerous disease caused by a virus. Some children and adults who get a serious case of polio become paralyzed. This means that they are unable to move parts of their bodies. They may even die from the disease.

Serious cases of polio cause severe muscle pain and sometimes make the person unable to move one or both legs or arms and may make it difficult to breathe without the help of a machine. Mild cases of polio may last only a few days and may cause the person to have a fever, sore throat, stomachache, and headache.

There are no drugs or other special treatments that will cure people who get polio. There are two variants of polio vaccines: the widely recommended live oral polio vaccine, known as OPV, and the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV). OPV involves administering weakened but still live polio virus through oral drops, while IPV utilizes a killed polio virus administered as a shot. A regimen of 3 or more doses of either OPV or IPV provides protection against polio for at least 90 out of every 100 individuals.

Vaccine-derived poliovirus is a well-documented strain of poliovirus mutated from the strain originally contained in OPV. Some circulating vaccine-derived polioviruses have evolved to behave more like the wild virus, making it easier to spread to unvaccinated individuals. This is the reason why the 

Per the CDC, Good hand-washing practices can help prevent the spread of this disease. Because the virus that causes polio lives in the feces of an infected person, people infected with the disease can spread it to others when they do not wash their hands well after defecating. People can also be infected if they drink water or eat food contaminated with infected feces.

Polio still exists in Africa because some countries in the city and rural areas don't have enough good healthcare, making it hard to give vaccines to everyone. Also, in some areas, it's tough to reach people, and not everyone can easily get to a doctor. Problems like wars or political issues in some places make it difficult to have regular healthcare. Some people may not want the vaccine because they believe in different vaccine treatments or have different beliefs. 

How sick people get with the disease and how much they recover differ for each person. Most people who are paralyzed by polio will have some weakness in an arm or leg for the rest of their lives. Many of these people will be seriously disabled.


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