Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious viral disease, which mainly affects young children. The virus is transmitted through contaminated food and water, and multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system.
Many infected people have no symptoms, but do excrete the virus in their faeces, hence transmitting infection to others. Initial symptoms of polio include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck, and pain in the limbs.
In a small proportion of cases, the disease causes paralysis, which is often permanent. Polio can only be prevented by immunization.
Final Report of the Second Meeting of the American Regional Commission for Certification of Poliovirus Laboratory Containment and Verification of Poliofree Status (AMR RCC), Brasilia, Brazil - 28-29 February 2008.
In 1994, an independent International Commission for the Certification of Poliomyelitis Eradication (ICCPE), established by PAHO’s Director, certified the Region of the Americas polio-free. The Commission and most National Committees for Certification (NCC) dissolved shortly thereafter. Laboratory containment of wild poliovirus was not then an issue. In 1997, the newly established Global Commission for the Certification of the Eradication of Poliomyelitis (GCC) expressed concern that poliovirus stocks in laboratories could present a formidable threat to the ultimate success of eradication. In 1998, the GCC declared adequate containment a precondition for global certification. Certification of containment was included in the terms of reference for all Regional Commissions for Certification (RCC).
This little Peruvian boy (pictured left) is Luis Fermín Tenoria. Luis was the last child in the Americas to be paralysed by indigenous wild poliovirus, first showing symptoms of the disease on 5 September 1991.
Twenty years later, the region is still free from polio. But this has not been without tremendous effort.
Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization