A child is immunized against polio at the health clinic in a farming village in northern Nigeria. The procedure involves pinching two drops of the vaccine into the child's mouth. For full protection, the child needs three doses, spaced out over time.
Credit David Gilkey / NPR
A child crosses a bridge over the cement-lined Gogo stream, which flows behind the main market in Kano, Nigeria. Sanitation workers regularly test the sewage here for the presence of the polio virus.
Polio is on the verge of being eliminated. Last year there were just over 200 cases of polio, and they occurred in just two remote parts of the world — northern Nigeria and the rugged Afghan-Pakistan border region.
A new $5.5 billion plan being pushed by the World Health Organization strives to eliminate polio entirely, phase out vaccination campaigns and secure polio vaccine stockpiles in case the virus somehow manages to re-emerge.
If the effort is successful, polio would be just the second disease in human history, after smallpox, to be eliminated by medical science.
How close are we to the end? How close are we to being among the last humans to ever live? Depending on who you are — your religion, politics, relative degree of pessimism or optimism — that question is bound to bring up images of some particular kind of cataclysm. It could be an all-out nuclear exchange or a climate change-driven mass extinction. But what if there was a way of answering the doomsday question in the most generic way possible.
More than 1 million people are dying prematurely every year from air pollution in China, according to a new analysis.
"This is the highest toll in the world and it really reflects the very high levels of air pollution that exist in China today," says Robert O'Keefe of the Health Effects Institute in Boston, who presented the findings in Beijing this week.