World Polio Day on October 24 is celebrated in honour of the tireless contributions made by frontline healthcare workers in their vigilant fight to eradicate the disease. It provides an opportunity for countries to highlight global efforts undertaken to eradicate polio from every corner of the globe and lead a path towards a polio-free world. Globally, World Polio Day marks the renewal of commitment to eradication and prevention of this infectious disease.

World Polio Day

Theme for 2021

Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) is a private-public partnership and an alliance between key partners or stakeholders led by the national government to help in this fight against polio infection. This initiative is spearheaded by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The Global Polio Eradication Initiative was started to eradicate infections caused by poliovirus and put an end to the worldwide suffering caused by this devastating disease. The world has achieved 99.9% wild poliovirus (WPV) transmission reduction, but various challenges persist. GPEI in June of 2021, launched the Polio Eradication Strategy to deliver the promise made on the 41st World Health Assembly to end all forms of polio by 2026. GPEI strategy outlines a coordinated approach to interrupt infections caused due to transmission of wild poliovirus and stop outbreaks of vaccine-derived viruses which usually occur in unimmunized communities. This five-year strategy was developed to promote health service integration, improve surveillance and community engagement, enhance campaign quality, and elevate efforts in the highest-risk countries.

Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on this World Polio Day intends to recognize the extraordinary commitment and efforts of the team members of the STOP Program in their global fight to eradicate polio. STOP Program team members are frontline public health workforce engaged to support national response towards prevention of infectious diseases using a vaccine. CDC invests in recruiting, supporting, training, and deploying public health professionals based on countries requirements to help increase vaccine coverage and build stronger immunization systems, improve outbreak detection and response. The rotary international community is closely monitoring recommendations and updates from WHO and CDC to ensure the most appropriate and safest action to end polio. Rotary brings together local and global leaders to take on the world’s most significant effort and toughest challenge to eradicate polio.

The delivery of vaccines ensures health protection and provides hope to children and families across the world. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, frontline workers continue to deliver vaccines to millions of children to stop polio outbreaks, keep polio eradication on track, and support national as well as community response towards vaccine-preventable disease threats. Challenges persist despite incredible progress made in trying to reach every child in all regions which have been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. As healthcare and immunization systems have been stretched to accommodate rising COVID-19 infections and vaccination rollout, many countries around the world have reported a decrease in routine immunization coverage. This decline or gap in routine immunization coverage creates opportunities for the poliovirus to spread among unvaccinated individuals. COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the spread of diseases without borders, thus, making continuous vaccination compulsory as long as polio exists somewhere in the world.

History & Significance

Polio has been around since ancient times as depicted in Egyptian tomb paintings. The development and breathtaking contribution made by Jonas Salk through his discovery of the polio vaccine benefited the whole world and laid down a very significant milestone in medical history.  The oral form of ingestible vaccine discovered by Albert Sabin for kids below five years soon followed suit. Rotary International identified the immense efforts put in by Jonas Salk towards vaccine discovery which helped the world to fight against this deadly polio disease. International Polio Day continues to be celebrated every year on his birth anniversary to commemorate his contribution.

Polio is one of the dangerous diseases that are waterborne and has lifelong implications. ‘Poliomyelitis or Polio’ is defined as a paralytic disease that is highly contagious and caused by the poliovirus that invades the brain and spinal cord, causing paralysis. Most infected people do not show any visible symptoms, though sometimes flu-like symptoms may include sore throat, fever, tiredness, nausea, headache, and stomach pain that usually lasts 2 to 5 days. More serious symptoms of poliovirus infection that affect the brain and spinal cord include paraesthesia (feeling of pins and needles in the legs), meningitis (infection of the covering of the spinal cord and/or brain) and paralysis (weakness in the arms, legs, or both). The most severe symptom associated with polio is paralysis that can lead to permanent disability and death because the virus affects the muscles involved in the breathing process. In post-polio syndrome (PPS), even after full recovery children later on as adults can develop new muscle pain, weakness or paralysis. Muscle-wasting is permanent in polio and the condition of the post-polio syndrome can affect polio survivor’s decades after recovery from initial poliovirus infection. The symptom of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) indicates the possible presence of poliovirus that needs to be confirmed along with eliminating other causes.

This potentially deadly infectious and crippling disease caused by the poliovirus spreads among humans with children being highly susceptible. Children affected with this disease face the consequence of disability and morbidity for the rest of their life. Governments of endemic countries have made it necessary to administer polio vaccines orally to children below five years.  Since there is no cure, vaccination is the only way to prevent the disease, protect children and stop the further spread of this infection. Polio in rare cases occurs in polio-free regions through the emergence of a vaccine-derived strain, importation of a wild or vaccine-derived strain in areas having a high proportion of unvaccinated individuals. Genetic mutations among the weakened strain of poliovirus present in oral polio vaccine can spread widely among unvaccinated individuals leading to cause the virus behaving like the ‘wild’ poliovirus (WPV) that causes paralytic polio. A fully immunized population needs to be achieved to protect against both wild and vaccine-derived polioviruses. Polio has been eradicated across the globe through sustained efforts made by World Health Organisation.

Master in Public Health Management (MPH)

The mission of James Lind Institute (JLI) with MPH (Master of Public Health Management) in Infectious Diseases ensures bridging the gap for skilled professionals in the field of public health and clinical research. Public health professional specialized in infectious disease is offered a variety of rewarding career options. This program strengthens the knowledge and skills required by the trained workforce of the public health systems for developing strategies and policies in surveillance, control, and treatment of infectious diseases. Training and skill development provided in handling infectious disease is well suited for a variety of roles in public health. A degree in MPH-Infectious Disease allows exploration of careers in the fields of public health practice and hospital infection control, patient advocacy, academics and training, community education, policy development and NGO (non-governmental organizations) operations. The program covers every aspect of infectious diseases including public health and microbiological principles; nosocomial infections; epidemiology, surveillance, and control of diseases; immunology, biostatistics, nutrition, research methodology and drug development. The MPH infectious disease program at JLI provides a focused understanding of communicable diseases.

Master of Public Health (MPH) in Maternal & Child Health

The MPH program in Maternal & Child Health is designed to pursue opportunities within the healthcare system with a focus on maternal and child health. The Dual JLI Degree program helps broaden the basic understanding and develop key skills needed to solve important health challenges faced by women and children across the globe. Specialization in Maternal & Child Health (MCH) provides knowledge and critical thinking skills applicable within the health domain. The knowledge acquired in any key interest area within the subject helps to understand the incidence and prevalence of challenges followed by evaluation of opportunities for better health outcomes among women and children. The curriculum of this program provides fundamental knowledge related to MCH and the opportunity to apply acquired skills in the healthcare delivery system.

MCH professionals work in community healthcare set-ups that are focused primarily on caring for mothers and children. Maternal & Child Health professionals support the community health delivery system and broaden the scope of the public health delivery system. MCH professionals assume significant responsibilities within the public health system to maintain and enhance the quality of healthcare facilities available to mothers and children. Within the public health system, technical and communication skills are essential for MCH professionals. Successful MCH professionals with high Emotional Quotient (EQ) need to be skilled communicators and active listeners. Innate personal attributes and high-quality training exposes the MCH professionals to desired behaviours required to take up roles and responsibilities within the healthcare setup. MPH with a specialization in Maternal & Child Health is designed to suit healthcare specialists or fresh graduates expected to engage in education and training related activities, outreach programs, immunization and related programs, social services and maternity-related activities.