Sarah Kohl, M.D. wants us all to know just how close humanity is to eradicating polio:


Sometimes it is hard for us to realize what a burden polio is since it has been eradicated from the Western Hemisphere since 1991. But there are still pockets of polio around the globe and several recent flare-ups remind us our work is not done.


Last week in the New York Times, Donald G. McNeil Jr. reported on the problems children face in Somalia and Pakistan:

The global effort to eradicate polio, a disease that has been on the brink of extinction for years, is facing serious setbacks on two continents. The virus is surging in Somalia and the Horn of Africa, which had been largely free of cases for several years. And a new outbreak has begun in a part of Pakistan that a warlord declared off limits to vaccinators 14 months ago.


Dr. Kohl fills us in:

The current outbreak in Somalia reminds us how the worlds of politics and immunization collide. 181 cases of polio have occurred worldwide so far this year- with an explosive 115 in Somalia and northern Kenya in the last 3 months–an area where 7 in 10 children are susceptible to polio. And so more immunization campaigns are needed, despite the danger to the healthcare workers.

In Africa and Central Asia, there are still children who have weak limbs and a life-long disability from polio. I have seen this in countries where there aren’t any fancy curb cuts or adaptive devices or laws to protect employment status. Polio is a disaster for a youngster who becomes disabled and relegated to begging or being dependent upon his family for a lifetime.

My mother-in-law still tears up at the remembrance of her first patient in nursing school: a teen boy who was in an iron lung. Tenderly she cared for him, encouraging him, bathing him, talking with him throughout the hot summer months. Then one morning she reported for duty and he was gone. She was in shock–It was few hours before they told her the truth that he had passed in the night. After all these years she remembers that day like it was yesterday.


We live on a small planet.  Polio is just a plane ride away. Despite effective and safe vaccines, our protection against polio is only guaranteed by eradicating it everywhere, for everyone, forever.

We’re so close…


***Sarah Kohl, M.D. is a pediatrician at Pediatric Alliance, Chartiers/McMurray Division and is founder and president of TravelReadyMD.***