Bill Gates predicts polio will be eliminated this year

Billionaire Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said he believed wild poliovirus would be eliminated from the Earth this year, two years earlier than he anticipated.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation he hosts with his wife has donated some $3 billion to eradicate polio in the world, CNBC reported.

Gates wrote in his foundation’s letter that he hopes polio will join smallpox as being the next disease eradicated from the planet.

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"Progress in fighting polio might be one of the world's best-kept secrets in global health," Gates said. "If things stay stable in the conflicted areas, humanity will see its last case of polio this year."

A boy receives polio vaccine drops during a house-to-house anti-polio vaccination campaign in Sanaa, Yemen October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi - RC139C105EC0

Children in war-torn Yemen receive the polio vaccine drops.  (Reuters)

Dr. Jay Wenger, who heads the Gates Foundation polio elimination endeavor, echoes Gates' belief. 

"What we're looking at now is sort of the endgame of polio eradication," Wenger said. "We are closer than ever, and we're optimistic that we can see the end of wild poliovirus disease by as early as this year.”

Wenger said there were 12 known cases of the virus in the world today and were located in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Wenger said in the past few years, the cases have dropped from 74 to 12.

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The virus has been almost wiped out due to vaccination efforts led by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative which launched in 1988. The number of polio cases have decreased by 99.9 percent in the world, CNBC reported.

Polio, which is highly contagious, is caused by a virus that can paralyze the infected person.

The World Health Organization reported that if one child is infected, all the children in every country could get the disease. If efforts were not made to vaccinate and eliminate the virus, 200,000 new cases could erupt each year around the world.