The latest United Nations health report indicates that global cases of polio have fallen worldwide and are currently at a record low. However, this is counterbalanced by incidences in some parts of the world being at a record high.
Polio mainly affects people who haven't been immunized. Most parts of the world are now polio-free following successful immunization programs.
In terms of the recent global decline, the BBC notes that there have only been 55 cases. The report goes on to state the following about this low number: "That's all the cases of polio that have been reported in the world so far this year. A lower total for mid-May than ever before."
However the BBC also notes that "After more than two decades of outstanding progress towards eliminating polio, the fear is that efforts could stumble so close to the finishing line."
In particular, three countries are now at the heart of concern: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. They are the only countries where polio is endemic. Between 2010 and 2011, cases in Afghanistan increased by 220%, in Nigeria by 185% and by 37% in Pakistan, which was responsible for a third of all cases in the world.
These figures have caused concern for the United Nations. Writing for the organization Polio Eradication, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon poetically states "Wild viruses and wildfires have two things in common. If neglected, they can spread out of control. If handled properly, they can be stamped out for good. Today, the flame of polio is near extinction — but sparks in three countries threaten to ignite a global blaze. Now is the moment to act."
A major global health conference taking place Geneva: the 65th World Health Assembly, to review polio as well as other major health concerns.
Polio, or poliomyelitis, is an acute, viral, infectious disease spread from person to person. Affected individuals can exhibit a range of symptoms if the virus enters the blood stream.