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Philanthropist Bill Gates posted some positive news on his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's blog: the world is on the path towards the eradication of polio.

“In the past two decades, polio cases around the world have been reduced by 99 percent,” he says. “If we can get rid of the last 1 percent, polio will become the second major infectious disease, after smallpox, that has ever been completely eliminated.”

But the battle is not a sure win yet. Lapses in vaccinations, incomplete inoculations of the four oral doses required, and a lack of funding continue to pose a threat.

“Eradication is top because it’s the weak link that holds you back,” says Gates. “If you just have one state or even part of a state that’s not doing its job, then the disease can flourish. Since there was so much virus in Nigeria over a period of years, it did spread out to most of the neighboring countries.”

In 2003, a rumor in Nigeria that the vaccine sterilized women caused a severe drop in the vaccination rate. By 2006, polio cases had increased by 400%. It was necessary for religious and community leaders to step in and address the cultural distrust, to encourage people to take the vaccine. The result is what has Gates so optimistic – according to the Foundation’s website, the number of cases of polio in Nigeria this year is only three, down from 312 cases in 2009.

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