How do I know there is no polio?

Rotarian Chris Offer (right) and Dr. Noha Farag from the CDC visit a traditional healer's hut as part of a polio surveillance team in Sudan. A Rotary poster about paralysis appears in the background.

Rotarian Chris Offer (right) and Dr. Noha Farag from the CDC visit a traditional healer's hut as part of a polio surveillance team in Sudan. A Rotary poster about paralysis appears in the background.

By Chris Offer, past governor of district 5040 and member of the Rotary Club of Ladner, Canada

I have often asked the question: “How do we truly know there is no polio in a particular country?” In January, I had the opportunity to find out.

I arrived in Khartoum, Sudan, on
17 January as the Rotary representative on an Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) surveillance team. AFP leg and arm paralysis is one of the primary indicators of polio. In countries at risk of polio transmission, an AFP surveillance system helps ensure that a polio outbreak is caught early and stopped quickly. AFP has many causes other than polio, including Guillain-Barré Syndrome, forms of tuberculosis, trauma, hypocalcaemia, and others. However, to avoid missing cases of polio, all children under age 15 with AFP should be tested.

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