A historic achievement in a year of turmoil

Lancet Global Health
Oct 2020 Volume 8 Number 10 e1242-e1351


A historic achievement in a year of turmoil
The Lancet Global Health
On World Polio Day 6 years ago, we wrote in an Editorial that “2014 has not felt like a good year for infectious disease control”. Little did we know what lay ahead. Yet in 2020—a year of unprecedented disruption at the hands of a new human pathogen—the transmission of an old and more deadly and disabling virus was formally declared over on a continent with some of the weakest health systems in the world.
The certification on Aug 25 that the African region is now free of wild poliovirus was a truly historic moment. Back in 2014, WHO declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern over markedly increased international spread, including from Africa, and in 2016 WHO revoked Nigeria’s recently achieved polio-free status after several cases of wild poliovirus were discovered in Borno state. Genetic analysis pointed to long-term undetected transmission—a devastating setback borne of prolonged conflict that had destroyed health-care delivery infrastructure and severely restricted surveillance…