India set to be declared polio-free

India was once recognized as the world’s epicenter of polio and hundreds of families still refuse to give polio drops to their children, fearing sterility.

India set to be declared polio-free

World Bulletin / News Desk

In one of the most challenging public healthcare breakthroughs, India on Monday completed three years without a single polio case, marking the gestation period to be declared a polio-eradicated country by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Thanks to a sustained vaccination drive, Monday’s milestone is of significant importance as India was the only country in the Southeast Asian region with polio cases. The last polio case was reported from the eastern state of West Bengal three years ago on January 13, 2011.

"Proud day for all of us Indians. India is polio-free for three years,” an exuberant RPN Singh, Junior Home Minister, wrote on his Twitter page.

India was declared “polio-free” last year by WHO, but it is only after three years time that a nation is declared to have “eradicated” polio.

India is likely to get the certificate from the WHO in this regard by February's end.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), a public-private partnership initiative, said in a statement that with a densely-concentrated population of more than one billion people, India was once considered the most challenging place on earth to end polio.

Backed by local religious and community leaders, more than two million vaccinators worked in every nook and corner of the country, convincing people of the efficacy of polio drops and the perils of the centuries-old scourge.

“The country’s success is a result of remarkable commitment at all levels, from the highest reaches of government to the heroic 2.3 million vaccinators delivering polio drops to local communities,” the statement said.

GPEI said India’s triumph is a landmark achievement that will vastly benefit children's health in India and around the world.

Shakeel Ansari, a foreman at a textile factory in Malegaon, 300 kms north of Mumbai, expressed to Anadolu Agency (AA) his happiness at knowing that polio has been eradicated from the country.

“My son was not so lucky but I still feel happy that the mysterious disease of polio has been eradicated,” Ansari told AA.

Tufail, Ansari’s 17-year old son, contracted the poliovirus in 1997 when he was barely 6 months old.

The young Tufail, who leads a normal life despite paralysis, was not administered polio drops because of lack of awareness.

Ansari said his son dropped out of school to learn sewing as he was not successful in his studies.

In 2009, India accounted for half of all cases worldwide with 741 infections that led to paralysis.

In 2010, the number fell to double digits due a massive polio eradication drive.

In 1985, India reported 150,000 cases of paralytic polio.

India was once recognized as the world’s epicenter of polio.

In 2012, WHO said that India seems to have “interrupted wild poliovirus transmission,” completing one year without polio.

Despite achieving the milestone, the challenge remains as hundreds of families have refused to administer polio drops to their kids in the recent past.

A senior government doctor confirmed to AA that in 2012, an estimated 800 families refused polio drops in Malegaon town alone, fearing their children may become “sterile” after taking the drops.

The doctor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said there is no time for celebration and complacency.

“India must maintain sensitive surveillance and high childhood immunity against the poliovirus despite the recent success,” the doctor said.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 14 Ocak 2014, 10:19