New Delhi (ISJ): From a country, which accounted for more than half of the world's polio cases, India announced the third consecutive polio-free year on Monday (Jan. 13). The last case of wild poliovirus was reported in Howrah district of West Bengal in 2011. The official announcement of a polio free nation will be made on February 11, 2011.
"It is a matter of great pride for all of us," said Ghulam Nabi Azad, India's Health Minister adding, "India's unprecedented progress against polio will pave way for polio-free certification of the entire South East Asia Region of World Health Organisation in the first quarter of 2014.
The South-East Asia Regional Certification Commission is scheduled to meet in New Delhi, end of March, 2014 to evaluate the surveillance quality. If it is convinced that there is no wild poliovirus in the region, the Commission will certify the region of WHO as polio-free.
"This landmark is a great credit to the strong commitment and leadership of the Government of India," said Dr. Nata Menabde, WHO Representative to India.
India accounted for more than half the world's polio incidence till 2009, while 741 cases were reported in 2009, 42 in 2010 and just one case in 2011. The milestone was achieved by the relentless efforts of millions of workers, including more than 23 lakh vaccinators and volunteers and more than 1.5 lakh supervisors.
Dr. Menabde cautioned despite this historic progress there can be no room for complacency. "We have in fact redouble our efforts to maintain the highest level of vigil as the risk of polio virus importation persists from polio endemic and re-infected countries," she added
India will continue its surveillance, until the crippling disease is eradicated globally, reaching out to the most vulnerable migrant, mobile, undeserved and marginalised populations, the new born and children in the high-risk areas. As part of the risk mitigation strategy, all travellers from the polio endemic and re-infected countries would receive oral polio vaccine at least four to six weeks before their departure to India.