Does polio still exist? Is it curable?

Updated April 2017

Q: Polio is a disease you read about in history books. Does it still exist? Is it curable?

A: Polio does still exist, although polio cases have decreased by over 99% since 1988, from an estimated more than 350 000 cases to 37 reported cases in 2016. This reduction is the result of the global effort to eradicate the disease. Today, only 3 countries in the world have never stopped transmission of polio (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria).

Despite the progress achieved since 1988, as long as a single child remains infected with poliovirus, children in all countries are at risk of contracting the disease. The poliovirus can easily be imported into a polio-free country and can spread rapidly amongst unimmunized populations. Failure to eradicate polio could result in as many as 200 000 new cases every year, within 10 years, all over the world.

There is no cure for polio, it can only be prevented. Polio vaccine, given multiple times, can protect a child for life.