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Committee for Poliomyelitis Eradication in Germany

Members of the Committee for Poliomyelitis Eradication in Germany. Source: © RKI

Poliomyelitis (polio) was once a disease feared worldwide, striking suddenly and paralyzing mainly children. Since 1988, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative has worked towards the millennium goal to eradicate polio globally and has reduced polio case numbers by more than 99.9%. There are just two countries which have never stopped transmission (Afghanistan and Pakistan) from which polio can spread to infect people in other countries with inadequate vaccination levels.

The certification process for polio eradication is overseen by the Global Certification Commission of the World Health Organization (WHO) and is conducted on a regional basis. Each WHO region can consider certification only when all countries in the area meet specified criteria:

  1. absence of indigenous wild poliovirus (WPV) transmission for at least three consecutive years monitored by a sensitive, certification-standard surveillance such as Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) surveillance, environmental surveillance or enterovirus (EV) surveillance;
  2. ensure highest possible immunity levels;
  3. capacity to detect, report, and rapidly respond to any imported WPV; and
  4. implementation of containment measures according to the global action plan for laboratory containment of WPV.

The WHO European Region was certified polio-free in 2002. The member states have committed themselves to take all required measures to survey and preserve this status until the global eradication will be achieved. Each country has an independent National Certification Committee (NCC) to collect, verify and submit country documentation related to polio eradication activities to WHO.

In Germany, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) is responsible for these activities and hosts the office of the NCC. Assurance of polio-free status is based on EV surveillance which offers EV testing to all hospitals for patients with viral meningitis/encephalitis or AFP independent of age. For implementation of EV surveillance a Laboratory Network for Enterovirus Diagnostics (LaNED) was established which is supervised by the National Reference Laboratory at RKI.

The German NCC was founded in 1997 and comprises ten experts representing all relevant fields such as public health, virology and clinical medicine. The members are appointed by the Ministry of Health for four years. The NCC meets at least once a year. It is their duty to support and advise RKI on all activities to maintain polio-free status, to evaluate the effect of measures taken, and to review and certify polio-free status until the circulation of WPV has been interrupted globally.

Date: 14.06.2016