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Africa now free of wild poliovirus, but polio threat remains

Africa now free of wild poliovirus, but polio threat remains
Posted at 8:43 AM, Aug 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-25 11:43:02-04

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Health authorities are poised to declare the African continent free of the wild poliovirus after decades of effort.

The declaration on Tuesday leaves Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan as the only countries thought to still have the wild poliovirus.

"Today we are also celebrating another public health triumph: the eradication of wild poliovirus in Africa," said Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus with the World Health Organization. "This is an incredible achievement, and a much-needed cause for celebration."

The World Health Organization says this is just the second time a virus has been eradicated in Africa, after smallpox four decades ago. However, the announcement doesn’t mean Africa is polio-free.

Cases of vaccine-derived polio are still sparking outbreaks.

Still, health authorities see the declaration as a rare glint of good news in Africa amid the coronavirus pandemic and another Ebola outbreak in Congo that has infected 100 people.