The World Health Organization has announced that the type three strain of the wild polio virus "is truly gone." However, new data has revealed too few children in Germany are vaccinated against the disease.
The type three wild polio virus has been eradicated, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday as it celebrated the development as a "historic achievement for humanity" on World Polio Day.
The Global Commission for the Certification of Poliomyelitis Eradication, an expert panel, confirmed the eradication leaves one strain in transmission, the wild polio virus type one. Type two was eliminated in 2015.
"The eradication of wild polio virus type three is a major milestone towards a polio-free world, but we cannot relax," said Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa. In unvaccinated populations, polio viruses can spread quickly.
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Germany falls behind
The Robert Koch Institute warned Thursday Germany is lagging behind in the fight against the life-threatening disease, saying too few children in the country are being vaccinated against polio.
The institute's latest data reveals that the vaccination rate against polio at the start of the school year in 2017 was only 92.9%. The rate falls short of the WHO standard recommendation of 95%.
A spokesperson for UNICEF, the United Nations agency for the well-being of children, warned that Germany has developed a false sense of security about the virus.
"Countries must strengthen routine immunization to protect communities, ramp up routine surveillance so that we are able to detect even the slightest risk of polio re-emerging," said Moeti in a statement.
Polio invades the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis within a matter of hours. While the virus cannot be cured, polio can be prevented by vaccination.
A dramatic drop in in worldwide polio cases has largely been due to public health campaigns pushing for the immunization of babies and children.
mvb/rt (AFP, Reuters, dpa)