Global Polio Eradication


Project Overview


Poliomyelitis is a disease slated for eradication in this decade. Because the only reservoir for the virus is humans, once  no further cases occur, the population will be free from this crippling and often fatal disease. Although developed nations have been free from polio for decades, hundreds of cases are tallied each year mostly in Asia and Africa. Vaccination is difficult, as is public health in general in developing nations. In this project, students will investigate the World Health Organization (WHO) Polio Eradication website to collect and analyze data on the incidence of polio world wide.  Student view and discuss photographs of the effects of polio and vaccination efforts by public health workers. Data on the number of individuals infected with polio is posted on the website weekly and also by year and students will use this data to create and analyze a line graph of disease rates over time. In addition, students will distinguish between endemic and imported virus  and consult world maps to connect geography to disease transmission. Students will then formulate and discuss conclusions about  polio biology, the efficacy of control efforts, and  stumbling blocks to polio eradication. The WHO maintains a comprehensive website giving students access to maps and tables that are not available elsewhere,




Student Learning Objectives

For this RWLO, students will be able to:



Time: 2 hours

Materials: Computer with Internet access, Student Directions, PowerPoint, and graph paper or computer graphing program

Prerequisites: This activity is designed for students who have taken or are concurrently taking college level Math and English

Implementation: The RWLO will be implemented during class time. Students view a narrated PowerPoint presentation and then work in small groups or pairs. A worksheet is completed and turned in for assessment at the end of the class period. W


·          Students view a short, narrated, PowerPoint presentation on the history of polio, effects of the disease and vaccination strategies currently used. Students may ask questions.

·          Distribute and discuss the student learning assessment form so that students are informed of the RWLO expectations prior to beginning the exercise. Discuss with students how to construct a line graph if necessary, and the importance of labels and titles.

·          Students are paired. The  World Health Organization Global Polio Eradication Initiative website is accessed to gather data on current polio outbreaks in specific countries. Data is reported by week. Students determine which countries have endemic versus imported epidemics and number of polio cases in specific countries. As students proceed through the worksheet, they evaluate data and answer questions on the worksheet.

·          Students prepare a line graph the number of polio cases that have occurred in the last decade and hypothesize about reasons for changes in cases over time.

·          Students examine recent polio case counts and postulate as to why certain countries exhibit widely varying polio case counts  each year

·          Students write their opinion as to whether vaccination strategies are working and what factors provide stumbling blocks to polio eradication

·          Provide class time for questions and discussion.


Procedure: Student Handout

1.      View and discuss a narrated PowerPoint presentation on poliomyelitis.


2.      Review the student learning assessment criteria with the instructor and obtain a student worksheet on which to provide your answers and analyses. The worksheet is the same as steps 3 through 5 below but provides spaces for answers.


3.      Access World Health Organization Global Polio Eradication Initiative website at  Highlight Global Situation and choose Global Case count

a.      How many global cases of polio have been reported to date in 2005?

b.      Which country has the greatest number of polio cases? In what part of the world (which continent) is this country?

c.      What do "importation" and "endemic" refer to?

d.      In which countries is polio endemic?


2.  Click on case counts. Select summary and by year. Use the Ctrl key to select the years from 1996 – 2005. Click on submit. Scroll to the bottom of the page to see the cumulative global data by year.

a. Graph this data using a line graph with year on the X access and number of cases on the Y axis. Your instructor will either provide graph paper or you will use a computer graphing program.

b. Describe in detail the changes in polio case counts by year. Is there a trend? Are rates stable? Are there changes? Hypothesize about the reasons for changes in case counts by year.

c. In 1988 there were 350,000 cases of polio. Why has there been a change in polio case counts from 1988 to now?


3.  Click on List.

a. What happened in Yemen in 2005 with respect to polio?

b. Indicate one country that was free of polio but has had resurgence.

c. Hypothesize about how this resurgence might have occurred

d.    Which country that has not had a polio case within the last 5 years, until just recently. Hypothesize about how this might have occurred

e.    Indicate one country which had hundreds of cases 5 years ago but is currently reporting very few cases

4. According to the data you have graphed and analyzed, comment on the efficacy of the global strategy to vaccinate all children from polio. Is it working? What are some of the stumbling blocks to world eradication?

5. Discuss your findings, hypotheses, and conclusions.  Turn in worksheets and graph for grading.



Content Materials

1.      PowerPoint presentation

2.      Student Worksheet and Assessment forms

3.      Additional materials

a.      Narrative to accompany PowerPoint presentation

b.      Graph paper or computer graphing program



Student Worksheet Questions

Score (points)

1. Global Situation

The student should provide answers to the worksheet part A questions (4)


2. Graphing and analyzing data

 a. The graph should be neat, axis labeled and title provided




Graph is neat, labeled and titled. There are no mistakes

Graph is neat but either labels or title is absent or a mistake has been made

Graph provides minimal information, contains mistakes or is difficult to read


 b. Students should hypothesize about why certain observations and changes in polio outbreaks have occurred. The answer should be clear and provide an explanation supporting their reasoning.




Provides clear & organized explanation using supportive information

Provides clear & organized explanation.

Provides minimal explanation with few details.


3. Global case count lists

Students should provide answers to questions about individual countries.


4. Conclusion


Students should provide a summary statement about the efficacy of polio vaccination and impediments to global vaccination strategies




Provides clear & organized explanation using supportive information

Provides clear & organized explanation.

Provides minimal explanation with little details.






Course Competencies

This RWLO is designed to be used in a non-majors biology course but could also be used in a course for biology majors or introductory epidemiology course.  It assumes that students have little or no knowledge of virology, epidemiology, or graph construction. It would fit well between modules on vaccination and the human immune system and the global effects of infectious disease.

Upon completion of this RWLO the following list of competencies shall be met.





Supplementary Resources

A number of websites contain valuable information for the instructor and students. The World Orthopedic Corporation,, contains a number of essays on polio in developing countries, the history of polio, and ankle, foot and leg deformities and other paralyses resulting from polio infection. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, provides and extensive resource for the effects of polio and other infectious diseases on global health. UNICEF's site provides updates on global vaccination strategies and programs. The Rotary Organization is very active in the fight against polio A documentary about polio called The Last Child can be accessed at the Care website,  and the Voice of America Polio Eradication Project is found at These websites should provide answers to questions that both instructors and students have about poliomyelitis.

The National Center for Education Statistics  "Create a Graph", has interactive learning exercises on many types of graph construction. Data and graph labels are typed in to the program and the resultant graph can be previewed, printed, and saved.



This RWLO would fit well between modules on vaccination and the human immune system and the global effects of infectious disease in general. There are many examples of the effects of disease on a country's economics, educational opportunities, and individual life expectancy. Discussions of malaria, HIV/AIDs, tuberculosis, and parasites would enhance this RWLO. In addition, students might develop and interest in the integration of statistics and biology in the field of epidemiology which could be pursued with topics timely to the US including diabetes, obesity, smoking, drug use, heart disease, and cancer.

The instructor should  print out the data from the World Health Organization website required for this RWLO in case the event that the Internet is not operable at the time of the exercise.