The Legacy of Polio

Thanks to Dr. Jonas Salk’s vaccine and an oral vaccine introduced in 1962, the last case of polio in Alberta was reported in 1979. Canada was declared polio free in 1994. Despite these accomplishments, polio has not been completely eradicated, and those infected by the virus continue to live with its legacy. 

Approximately 60 percent of polio survivors are affected by post-polio syndrome. It is a neurological disorder that surfaces decades after patients initially contract the virus. Patients with post-polio syndrome suffer from muscle weakness, joint pain, and difficulty breathing, as well as extreme fatigue, known as hitting the “polio wall”.

As of 2019, polio remains endemic in only three countries: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, down from more than 125 countries in 1988. These continuing epidemics pose an ongoing risk to polio-free areas. In 2004, polio spread from Nigeria to the Sudan with 105 confirmed cases. 

According to the World Health Organization, of the 3 strains of wild poliovirus, type 2 was eradicated in 1999 and no case of wild poliovirus type 3 has been identified since 2012 in Nigeria.