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UN declares India polio-free

No cases reported in three years
UN declares India polio-free

A young child vaccinated as part of India’s “pulse polio” campaign.

Published: January 14, 2014 06:36 AM GMT
Updated: January 13, 2014 07:37 PM GMT

Without a single reported case of polio in three years, India has been declared a polio-free nation by the World Health Organization (WHO).

“This landmark is a great credit to the strong commitment and leadership of the government of India,” said Nata Menabde, WHO representative to India.

Prior to 2009, India had accounted for more than half of the world’s polio incidences.

With India’s achievement, the entire Southeast Asia Region of the World Health Organization is on the brink of being certified polio free by the end of March.

The Southeast Asia region of WHO has 11 member states -- India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, North Korea, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.

“The certification process has started,” an official from the communication department of the WHO told ucanews.com.

Certification of polio eradication is conducted on a regional basis. Each WHO region can consider certification only when all the countries in the area demonstrate the absence of polio for at least three consecutive years.

The region’s certification commission is scheduled to meet in New Delhi by the end of March.

“It is a matter of pride for the nation that not a single case of polio has been detected in three years,” said Ghulam Nabi Azad, federal health minister.

He said that the success was possible due to commitment of adequate financial resources, technological innovations and efforts of millions of workers.

To mark the occasion in Delhi, the historic India Gate and Red Fort were lit up with the message – “Celebrating three years since the last polio case in India”.

Polio is an infectious disease caused by a virus that enters the nervous system through the mouth. Spinal polio is the most common form, characterized by asymmetric paralysis that most often involves the legs. Polio mainly affects children under five years of age.

India began a mass polio immunization program in 1995. About 2.3 million volunteers participated in the program to immunize every child under the age of five. More than 170 million children were vaccinated after volunteers camped at remote hospitals, schools, railway stations, religious congregations and any place that pulled in a crowd. The campaign quickly reduced the average annual reported cases to 2,000. By 2010, 42 cases were reported. The last polio case in India was reported in January 2011.

Before the introduction of the polio oral vaccine, nearly 500 Indian children were paralyzed by the disease every day.

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