As we observe World Polio Day, we reflect on how far we have come since Dr. Jonas Salk led his team to develop a polio vaccine. In 1952 there were 21,000 reported cases of polio in the United States alone. Last year, there were only 223 cases globally. Yet, even as we celebrate the efforts underway to end polio and ensure, once and for all, that no child anywhere needlessly suffers from this debilitating disease, we still have much work to do.
Achieving a polio-free world is a priority of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and we have significantly stepped up the global efforts of our Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, we could not have come this far without global partnerships. Since 1988, CDC has worked as a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, joining Rotary International, the World Health Organization, and UNICEF along with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Working closely with national governments in affected countries, success has been achieved through the global work to organize robust vaccination campaigns, the key to full eradication.
Today, the world has the fewest number of cases ever in endemic countries, a reflection of the progress we are making toward full eradication. However, we must remain steadfast. The episodic return of the disease to previously polio-free countries is a reminder that as long as polio exists anywhere, polio is a threat everywhere.
The world is closer than ever to the end of polio. World Polio Day is an opportunity for the department and the global polio eradication community to renew our promise to future generations of a polio-free world. With resolute commitment, we will continue to work to realize the global goal to achieve a polio-free world by 2018.