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Kiwi scientists reported the possibility of COVID-19 eradication, easier than polio: A new study

Kiwi scientists reported the possibility of COVID-19 eradication, easier than polio: A new study

A new study suggested the possibility of global COVID-19 eradication. Kiwi scientists found that if we beat the poliovirus, we can get rid of COVID-19 possibly. They further added that we probably do not even need to wait for the vaccination of most of the world’s population by doing so. The study was published in the scientific journal BMJ Global Health this Tuesday.

Nick Wilson is the lead author of this study. He is also a public health professor at the University of Otago. According to him, COVID-19 has been eliminated at the country level in most parts of the Asia Pacific region. Furthermore, these countries have also sustained the elimination of COVID-19 for a long time, suggesting the global COVID-19 eradication is possible.  

The difference between the elimination of COVID-19 and eradication

Elimination differs from eradication. So, elimination of infection means a virus would no longer spread in a particular geographical area. Thus it has zero incidences of infection. However, it still has chances of the reestablishment of outbreaks due to disease transmission. Therefore, it requires continued intervention measures. Measles viral infection in New Zealand is an excellent example of the elimination of infection. 

On the other hand, eradicating infection means the virus is extinct in the wild and exists as the naturalized population. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the virus does not grow independently in the natural habitat. As a result, permanent reduction takes place globally with zero incidences of infection. Therefore, it does not require further intervention measures. Smallpox is an example of the eradication of the disease.

Scientists compared COVID-19 eradication with two eradicated viruses

Wilson and colleagues analyzed various factors for the COVID-19 eradication. These factors include the accessibility of effective and safe vaccines, the prospect of lifetime immunity against the virus, the influences of public health actions, effective messages from governments to control this infection, public awareness to protect from virus, concerns about the spreading of infection from private and public sectors, and public acceptance of disease control standards. They ranked COVID-19 with two other viruses, such as smallpox and Polio, previously eradicated.

Eradication of COVID-19 is a little bit easier than poliovirus

Wilson and his team reported poliovirus as the most challenging virus to eradicate from the world among all the three viruses. They ranked this virus with 1.5 scores on the scale. SARS-CoV-2, the original strain of COVID-19, was ranked just behind the poliovirus with a score of 1.6. At the same time, smallpox ranked with a score of 2.7.

Hence, they suggested that COVID-19 eradication appears a little more feasible than the poliovirus. However, it is much less possible than the already eradicated smallpox virus.

What is poliovirus?

Poliomyelitis or Polio is a disabling infectious disease caused by the poliovirus. The virus is contagious and can spread from one person to another. It attacks the spinal cord of an infected person, causing permanent paralysis. As a result, the person cannot move their body parts. This virus primarily infects children who are under five years of age.

Every one child in two hundred cases leads to permanent paralysis. Among those paralyzed cases, five to ten percent of children die after immobilization of their breathing muscles. Fortunately, patients due to wild poliovirus have reduced by more than 99 percent since 1988. According to an estimated value, from nearly 350 000 cases, it became only 33 cases, reported in 2018.

Despite this, children around the globe will remain at risk of contracting Polio as long as even a single child remains infected. Although the cases of Polio have reduced, the virus has not been eradicated till now. It has been reporting 200 000 new cases every year worldwide for ten years.

Symptoms of Polio

Out of a hundred, about seventy-two infected patients with poliovirus are asymptomatic. And out of four, about one infected patient has flu-like symptoms that last 2 to 5 days. These symptoms are as follows:

  1. Sore throat
  2. Fever
  3. Tiredness
  4. Headache
  5. Nausea
  6. Stomach pain

Other severe poliovirus symptoms that affect the spinal cord and brain of an infected person are as follows:

  1. Paresthesia: Feeling of needles and pins pricking sensation on the legs.
  2. Meningitis: Infections of the brain and spinal cord. It appears in only one out of twenty-five poliovirus-infected people.
  3. Paralysis: Weakness in the legs, arms, or both. It appears in about only one patient out of 200 cases with poliovirus infection. It can also cause immobility of the affected body parts.

How did smallpox eradicate from the world?

Smallpox was wiped out 40 years ago. Not a single case of this infection has been reported since the 1970s. However, the poliovirus is extremely rare currently, with only a few dozen cases reported every year. But there is still a need to take intervention measures to prevent its spreading. It was lastly recorded in the early 1960s in New Zealand. 

Smallpox was eradicated from the globe without expending any extensive vaccine or developing herd immunity. Instead, Wilson said that this virus just spent ring-vaccination programs to eradicate that work by targeting infected persons’ contacts.

What is smallpox?

Smallpox was one of the severe infectious diseases. It is a viral infection and caused by the variola virus. It was a highly contagious infection so that it could spread from one person to another. 

Most of the patients with smallpox recover, but their mortality rate was more than COVID-19, which is 30%. Nearly three infected people died in every ten infected patients. 

However, most of the smallpox survivors have everlasting scars on their skin, especially on their faces. And some of them had blinded.

Now smallpox has been eradicated with zero cases of naturally occurring smallpox in 1977. The last outbreak of this infection occurred in 1949 in the United States. 

After a few days of the incubation period, flu-like signs and symptoms suddenly occurred. These are as follows:

  1. Fever
  2. Headache
  3. Severe back pain
  4. Vomiting, possibly
  5. Severe fatigue
  6. Overall discomfort

COVID-19 infection has compelling advantages of public health measures

Michael Baker is a co-author of that research paper. He is also an epidemiologist at the University of Otago. He said that, unlike the poliovirus and smallpox, the prevention of COVID-19 spreading benefits people due to the additional impacts of public health measures. These protective measures are social distancing, contact tracing, border controls, hand washing, and mask-wearing. These measures can be more effective if they deploy strictly. 

The reason behind the zero cases in New Zealand was the advantage of its low population. Another widely praised strategy for the zero-COVID case is that New Zealand does not have any land borders to monitor. Thus, you can reduce infection to zero disease incidences by tracking a country’s border and social distance. 

The paper further added that infection could be eliminated by controlling a range of different situations. These also include the population density of a country and the size of the country’s land borders. For instance, China has a large land border, and Hong Kong has a high population density.

The emergence of new and more contagious variants of COVID-19 and misinformation rising about the adverse effects of vaccination is the reason behind the inhibitions to eradicate COVID-19.

Scientists expected the establishment of the outbreak again after COVID-19 eradication

Scientists showed a possibility of establishing an outbreak again after eradicating COVID-19 through viral reservoirs. To the best of our knowledge, animals have acted as viral reservoirs. Thus they could unleash the virus again on the humans after being wiped out. For this purpose, Wilson showed some possibility of developing animal vaccines to protect them from COVID-19. They further added that if the animal vaccine fails, they can control infection in animals using infected herds. 

Researchers reported the rare chances of spreading COVID-19 among wild animals. Until now, only a few cases of spreading of SARS-CoV-2 have appeared in wild animals with SARS-CoV-2 infection. Additionally, it also noted that companion animals did not reinfect humans after being infected with SARS-CoV-2. Finally, Dr. Baker showed his possibility that the interventions measures of COVID-19 might help eradicate other viruses, like measles.


In a new study, Kiwi scientists stated that COVID-19 eradication is possibly easier than poliovirus. However, it is much more complex than the virus that is responsible for smallpox. During their study, they analyzed every factor necessary to eliminate the virus. They ranked poliovirus as the most challenging virus among them. COVID-19 is just behind the poliovirus and far apart from the virus that causes smallpox. 

They noted the advantages of intervention measures: wearing masks, social distancing, washing hands, social distancing, contact tracing, and border controls. However, low population density and no land border are the main reasons behind the zero cases in New Zealand. 

They further predicted the possibility of reinfection from companion animals and the spreading of infections in wild animals. As a result, it may establish an outbreak again after the eradication. Therefore, they suggested vaccinating animals to prevent the spreading of disease.

Written by HealthRadar360

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