The global fight against polio reached a new milestone on Thursday when the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared that only one virus strain remained, while the two others had been wiped out.
As there is no cure for polio, immunisation and close monitoring to detect new cases are the only ways to fight the disease that mainly affects young children and can cause paralysis.
On Thursday, the UN health agency certified the eradication of poliovirus type 3, which had last been seen in Nigeria in 2012.
Type 2 already received such a certification in 2015.
Type 1 is still circulating but is confined to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The hotspots are in areas held by Taliban militants and in former Taliban provinces where many Islamic clerics see vaccination as a western conspiracy to sterilize Muslim children.
Pakistan has seen a sharp rise in the number of new cases to 72 this year, up from 12 last year, prompting fears of a resurgence of the crippling disease.
The WHO is committed to eradicate this last strain as well, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.
“We urge all our other stakeholders and partners to also stay the course until final success is achieved,” Tedros said.
Since the WHO launched its campaign against polio in 1988, annual infections have dropped from 350,000 to 33 last year.
However, the WHO has not only been fighting the three so-called wild virus strains, but also strains contained in vaccines that have been set free because of unsanitary immunisation methods. (dpa/NAN)