Eradicating the crippling virus - Purging polio

THE world is tantalisingly close to finally eradicating the polio virus. A huge immunisation effort in 150 countries began yesterday to target the final areas of risk for fear it could spread again.

Success would make polio only the second human disease to be eradicated since smallpox was banished in 1980.

Few diseases frightened parents more in the first half of the 20th century. It was also called infantile paralysis, as it predominantly affected children under the age of five. Though most people recovered quickly, some suffered temporary or permanent paralysis or died.

Ireland’s older generation will remember the major epidemics here in the 1940s and ’50s. The last such epidemic took place in Cork in 1956. We eradicated the disease here within a year of the last epidemic, a proud achievement by the Department of Health.

However, more than 7,000 Irish people will not mean to be reminded as they are still affected by the disease in the form of post-polio syndrome.


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