India was once recognized as the world’s epicentre of polio. But there has not been a single recorded case of polio in India since 13 Jan 2011. If all pending laboratory investigations return negative, in the coming weeks India will officially be deemed to have stopped indigenous transmission of wild poliovirus.
“India’s success is arguably its greatest public health achievement and has provided a global opportunity to push for the end of polio,” said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan. “The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is in full emergency mode and focused on using this momentum to close this crippling disease down. Stopping polio in India required creativity, perseverance and professionalism – many of the innovations in polio eradication were sparked by the challenges in India. The lessons from India must now be adapted and implemented through emergency actions to finish polio everywhere.”
The key to India’s remarkable progress in the fight against polio according to UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, has been the strong leadership of the Government of India and state governments, which launched a comprehensive polio eradication programme that has enabled sustained high immunization coverage in states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar with high rates of poverty, high population density and poor sanitation and infrastructure, conditions in which disease like polio can thrive.
“India’s achievement is proof positive that we can eradicate polio even in the most challenging environments – in fact, it is only by targeting these areas that we can defeat this evil disease,” Mr Lake said. “We have the ability to protect every last person, especially children, from this entirely preventable disease – and because we can, we must finish the job of eradicating polio globally, once and for all.”
When all pending specimens are processed (stools from children with acute flaccid paralysis and samples from sewage sampling), if no wild poliovirus is detected, India will no longer be considered polio-endemic. The laboratory system is expected to clear all samples within 4–6 weeks of collection.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) is spearheaded by national governments, WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and UNICEF.
Pictures Courtesy : UNICEF