A year of no polio: India triumphs, but risks remains
India has a reason to smile on the polio front, especially on Jan 13. Not only will it achieve a major milestone of no new case after that day last year, there are also indications that the World Health Organisation (WHO) will remove India from its list of polio endemic countries by February.
Experts, however, say the fight against the paralysing disease that affects children aged under five is far from over and there is still a need to be `vigilant`. `It`s great news for us. We are continuing our efforts to tackle polio,` a senior health ministry official said.
The last new polio case in India was reported Jan 13, 2011, involving a two-year-old girl in West Bengal. In 2010, there were 42 cases, as compared to 741 in 2009, which accounted for nearly half of the world`s polio cases. In 1991, there were 6,028 cases and in 1985 it was 150,000.
According to the official, what worked was each state had prepared itself for promptly detecting and immediately responding to any wild poliovirus through their `Emergency Preparedness and Response Plans`.
The task was not easy. The entire health ministry – at the centre and in the states – was geared to take up the challenge of tackling the disease.
Immunisation in itself was a mammoth job, involving thousands of people. And immunisations were carried out across the country, especially in the affected parts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar – the epicentre of polio.
Poliovirus is mostly transmitted through contact with the stool of an infected person, but also through contact with infected respiratory secretions or saliva, experts say.