Poliomyelitis Eradication

A world without poliomyelitis: The WHO, with its global initiative, is pursuing this objective. High vaccination rates, constant monitoring and safe handling of polio viruses in laboratories are the key elements in the worldwide eradication of poliomyelitis.

In 1988 the WHO adopted the global initiative to eradicate poliomyelitis. The eradication of poliomyelitis is considered achieved if no new case of illness caused by wild type polio viruses has occurred in the world for three consecutive years. Further-more, still existing polio viruses and infectious material may only be stored and used under strict containment conditions. At present, Europe, America, South-East Asia and the West Pacific are considered to be free of polio.

Eradication of polio virus type 2

Worldwide, the last case of an infection with wild type 2 polio virus occurred in 1999. Since then reported cases of infection with this virus are entirely attributed to the attenuated Sabin strain Type 2 that is contained in the live vaccine. Consequently, in September 2015 the WHO declared the worldwide eradication of wild type 2 polio virus. Renewed occurrence of cases of illness caused by type 2 polio virus should be prevented, in that

  • the Sabin strain type 2 is removed from the live vaccine,
  • the use and storage of poliovirus type 2 (wild type and vaccine strain) is allowed only in laboratories specifically certified for this (poliovirus-essential facility) and
  • any unneeded poliovirus type 2 material still present in the laboratories is destroyed.

Tasks of the FOPH

The FOPH is responsible for the safe handling of polio viruses in laboratories. In collaboration with the cantons, the FOPH must ensure that the required containment measures are strictly observed. As the national coordination centre it registers all laboratories that possess wild type polio viruses, live polio vaccines or potentially infectious material. By conducting the inventory of the laboratories the FOPH has successfully implemented the first phase of the WHO Action Plan. At present there are no laboratories in Switzerland which want to be certified as a poliovirus-essential facility. Consequently, up to the middle of 2016 the FOPH also coordinated and oversaw the Swiss-wide destruction of type 2 polio viruses (wild type and vaccine strain; infectious and potentially infectious material).


Biosafety legislation

The Ordinance on Handling Organisms in Contained Systems (ContainO) as well as various acts and additional ordinances govern activities with genetically modified, pathogenic or alien organisms in contained systems.

Last modification 23.10.2018

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Federal Office of Public Health FOPH
Biomedical Department
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