The WHO Africa region was declared free of wild polio on Tuesday after four years without a case. File Photo by Marshall Wolfe/EPA
Aug. 25 (UPI) -- The Africa Regional Certification Commission on Tuesday declared Africa free of wild polio after four years without a case.
World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanmo Ghebreyesus praised the WHO African region, which contains 47 countries, for being free of polio.
"Ending wild poliovirus in Africa is one of the greatest public health achievements of our time and provides powerful inspiration for all of us to finish the job of eradicating polio globally," Tedros said. "I thank and congratulate the governments, health workers, community volunteers, traditional and religious leaders and parents across the region who have worked together to kick wild polio out of Africa."
After Tuesday's announcement, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries that continue to experience wild polio transmissions.
Polio is most common in children younger than five and can lead to irreversible paralysis and death in some cases.
It is commonly spread from person to person, typically through contaminated water.
Two out of three strains of wild polio have been eradicated worldwide and although there is no cure, vaccines can protect children for life. More than 95% of Africa's population has been immunized as of Tuesday.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also praised Africa for its efforts to dispel the virus.
"This moment is Africa's to celebrate and savor and I want you to know the CDC stands with you today until the day polio is finally eradicated," CDC Director Robert Redfield said.