January 13, 2014
India Looks For WHO To Recognize Asian Country As Being Polio-Free
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
India, which had once been the polio capital of the world, has now been free of the debilitating disease for three years. The Asian country will now look forward to being officially declared polio-free by the World Health Organization (WHO) in March.
The WHO will still investigate India’s claims, making a sweep for any sign of possible undetected cases before making an official declaration.
In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) boasted that it and its international partners had made significant gains in eradicating polio from the world, with world cases falling from nearly 350,000 in 1988 to less than 225 in 2012, a decline of more than 99 percent.
While polio has made a resurgence in some parts of the world, notably in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, where the disease is still endemic, much of the world remains polio-free.
Polio, which has also been recently discovered in Syria and the Horn of Africa, typically infects children under the age of five and is transmitted via drinking contaminated water. The virus attacks the central nervous system and causes paralysis, muscular atrophy, deformation and, in severe cases, death. Polio is preventable with vaccine.
India has had significant gains in battling polio and was removed from the WHO’s polio-endemic list in 2012.
"This monumental milestone was possible due to unwavering political will at the highest level, commitment of adequate financial resources, technological innovation ... and the tireless efforts of millions of workers including more than 23 lakh (2.3 million) vaccinators," Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said in a statement to the BBC.
Now the country awaits finally declaration from the WHO.
"India has now set other important public health goals as a result of the confidence that the country has got from the successful eradication of polio," Nicole Deutsch, head of polio operations for the UN children's charity UNICEF in India, told the AFP news agency, citing a new measles eradication goal, as cited by BBC News.
But the road to recovery has not been an easy one for India.
Poor sanitation, densely populated cities and widespread poverty has made it difficult to eradicate polio. Many regions of the country were easy breeding grounds for the disease and helped polio spread like wildfire.
However, the Indian government did not let these factors cause it to waver its fight against the debilitating disease, and with help from a global polio eradication initiative – Rotary International, UNICEF, WHO, CDC – the country has prevailed in its war on polio.
In 2011, only one case of polio was recorded, dropping from 741 cases that were confirmed in 2009. Now the country is celebrating three years of being polio-free.
In order to help keep polio from making a comeback, Delhi announced that any travelers from Pakistan would have to show proof of immunization from at least six weeks before their departure to India. Travelers from Kenya were also told to get an additional dose of polio vaccine at least six weeks before traveling to India.
Polio is the second disease that has been eradicated from India. The country eradicated smallpox in 1980 following a successful sustained immunization campaign.