10/24/2012 12:35 pm ET Updated Oct 24, 2012

World Polio Day 2012: 10 Facts You Didn't Know About The Disease That's 99 Percent Eradicated

With polio 99 percent eradicated worldwide, global health advocates say an end to the disease is in sight, and they are asking for help with the other 1 percent on World Polio Day.

World Polio Day, celebrated Wednesday, both marks progress and offers a call to action to fight the disease, which can affect nerves and eventually lead to paralysis.

This year marks a major milestone, with India completing its second polio-free year. “India continues to be zero-polio. This is an unprecedented progress,” Ajay Khera, deputy commissioner in the health and family welfare ministry, told IANS.

In February, the World Health Organization removed India from the list of polio-endemic countries, but India has two more years until it can be declared fully polio-free.

There are only three remaining polio-endemic countries -- places where transmission of the disease hasn't been stopped: Aghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. Roadblocks include gaps in funding and challenges in administering vaccines to every child.

But there are many reasons the disease is conquerable, according to Global Polio Eradication Initiative: Polio only affects people, acquired immunity lasts a lifetime and inexpensive vaccination is available.

Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, describes solutions for providing treatment in his HuffPost blog:

Some of the things we need more of include strong management, accountability and political commitment in countries where polio is still a threat. The community also needs to think about being increasingly innovative in getting vaccines to children who are not being reached today.

See 10 facts you may not know about polio, and then check out ways to help below:

Top 10 Polio Facts


Rotary International

Polio Plus, the most ambitious program in Rotary's history, has been leading the world in ending the disease for more than 20 years. The organization focuses on the strategies of routine immunization for children, initiating National Immunization Days and providing more surveillance of health workers, pediatricians and others investigating the debilitating effects of polio. On a small scale, the organization also seeks to volunteers to work on a smaller, often "house-to-house" scale.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

The foundation looks to increase the number of polio vaccination campaigns by ensuring that every child under 5 is immunized. The organization also advocates for funding and awareness and seeks to develop new vaccines and antiviral drugs. The End of Polio The organization is a grassroots campaign coordinated by the Global Poverty Project. Currently, the work of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, the public-private partnership leading international eradication efforts, is constrained by a funding gap, according to the End of Polio's site.
  • Sign a petition asking governments to commit to finish what they started and end polio.
  • Donate here to the organization's partner, Rotary International.


UNICEF procured an average of 2 billion doses of oral polio vaccine annually for supplementary immunization during the last five years. The organization also supported the delivery of other efforts such as vitamin A and insecticide treated nets. UNICEF works with manufacturers to maintain and increase supply of the polio vaccine and also to ensure manufacturers' continued supply.