Why This CEO Believes Polio Will Be Eradicated Worldwide In 5 Years

A few hundred cases of the paralytic disease are still diagnosed each year, mostly in rural areas of Pakistan.

It can't just be cancer.

In the next five years, humanity can eradicate polio and make substantial gains against other communicable diseases, Steve Davis, chief executive of the health nonprofit PATH, said Wednesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Davis' remarks came a day after Vice President Joe Biden called for a "moonshot" in the fight against cancer.

"I would imagine we've put a check on the box around polio in the next five years or so," Davis said in an interview with The Huffington Post's Jo Confino. "We'll be making progress to eliminate or eradicate a couple other diseases in that time."

Polio, a paralytic virus, has largely been wiped out in developed countries, thanks to a vaccine developed in 1955. The number of cases worldwide each year has fallen from about 350,000 in 1988 to just 359 in 2014, though fears over the vaccine have led to a recent uptick of cases in rural parts of Pakistan and India. 

Still, the proliferation of medical technology that allows doctors to more precisely diagnose and treat illnesses will be the driving force behind those advances, Davis predicts. 

"I think we will also have gotten so much smarter in just five years around the way we can use data and data tools differently, so that we can understand who to reach, when and how," Davis said. "If you gave me 15 years, the list would be much more exciting."

"We are blessed to be in an incredible time of innovation and impact right now in global health," he added. "I can see, between now and five years from now, we'll touch another billion lives with lifesaving tools and devices." 


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