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Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Print version ISSN 0042-9686

Bull World Health Organ vol.80 n.8 Genebra Aug. 2002 

Europe to be certified free of polio

The 51 Member States1 of WHO's European Region, comprising 870 million people, can now be certified free of polio. The announcement was made in Copenhagen on 21 June by the European Regional Commission for the Certification of Poliomyelitis Eradication (RCC).

The European Region has been free of indigenous polio for over three years. Its last case of indigenous wild-virus poliomyelitis occurred in eastern Turkey in 1998, when a two-year-old unvaccinated boy was paralysed by the disease. Poliovirus imported from other countries remains a threat. In 2001, there were three polio cases among Roma children in Bulgaria and one non-paralytic case in Georgia — all caused by poliovirus originating from the Indian subcontinent.

Of the recent importations, Sir Joseph Smith, Chairman of the RCC, said, "We are satisfied that all measures were taken to ensure that wild poliovirus imported into the Region did not lead to ongoing circulation. All evidence confirms that. However, our work does not stop here. Throughout the European Region, ongoing vaccination and surveillance are vital. The risk of poliovirus being imported into Europe will continue until we eradicate polio globally.''

Since the Global Polio Eradication Initiative was launched in 1988, two WHO regions have been certified polio-free: the Americas in 1994 and the Western Pacific in 2000. Polio cases have dropped from an estimated 350000 in 125countries in 1988 to 480 reported cases in 10 countries in 2001.



1Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Uzbekistan, Yugoslavia.