Efforts renewed to eradicate polio

Renewed efforts are under way to make polio the second disease eradicated from the planet since smallpox in 1979.

Though polio once left thousands of children in the United States paralyzed, it has since been eliminated with vaccines developed in the 1950s. In most of the rest of the world, a $9 billion vaccination campaign has diminished the number of outbreaks, according to ABC News.

Today, 99 percent of the globe is polio-free. Polio is not entirely eradicated, however. It still makes its presence known in parts of India, Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan. This year, an ongoing outbreak in the Congo has left hundreds dead and even more paralyzed.

Outbreaks like the one in Congo have ignited a renewed push to finally eliminate wild polio from the planet, ABC News reports.

Dr. Donald Henderson, the American physician and epidemiologist who pioneered the drive to eradicate smallpox in the 1960s and 1970s, used to believe eradicating polio would be impossible. He now believes he has cause to change his mind.

"I think eradication of the wild polio virus is possible," Henderson said in a recent interview, according to ABC News.

In India, efforts to stop the disease include vaccinating children at every opportunity and examining all children that show signs of the disease.

Dr. Hamid Jafari runs the polio arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization in India.

"It doesn't take much for the virus to get to another continent," Jafari said, according to ABC News. "And if the virus finds a group of unimmunized children, it will have a home and it will kill and paralyze children."