India has reached a major milestone in the history of polio eradication – a 12-month period without any case of polio. This date marks the unprecedented progress in India and an endorsement of the effectiveness of the polio eradication strategies and their implementation in India. Once all specimens from acute flaccid paralysis cases and sewage samples up to mid-January are tested in the laboratories and no wild poliovirus is detected, India will come off the WHO list of polio endemic countries.
In 2009 India had more polio cases than any other country in the world (741). In just two short years, India has taken a giant step towards ending polio globally forever.
India overcame huge challenges to stop transmission of polio, including its high birth rate, large population, hard-to-reach migrant communities and resistance to oral polio vaccine in high-risk populations, and its progress is proof-positive that polio eradication can be achieved anywhere in the world, even in the most challenging conditions.
The Polio Eradication Programme in India is a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW), WHO’s National Polio Surveillance Project (NPSP), UNICEF, Rotary International, and the U.S. Centres for Disease Control.
The programme aims to eradicate polio from India by immunizing every child under five years of age with the oral polio vaccine. India, together with Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan, is one of the four polio-endemic countries left in the world.
Tremendous progress has been made in the last few years to interrupt polio transmission in India. The number of polio cases dropped to a record low of 42 in 2010 compared with 741 in 2009.
In 2011, India has had only one case of polio, in January in Howrah district of West Bengal. The traditional polio endemic states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have not reported any cases of polio this year.
Uttar Pradesh, the epicenter of almost all poliovirus outbreaks in the country, has not reported any case of polio since April 2010. Bihar has not reported any case of polio since September 2010.
Closer to eradication, now every case of polio in the country will be treated as a public health emergency. In West Bengal an emergency response has been rolled out by the government and polio partners; efforts to mobilise the community for polio vaccination has been scaled-up and rapid and large-scale polio immunization rounds are being carried out to protect children against polio and prevent the virus from spreading to other parts of the state and the country.
The more efficacious monovalent oral polio vaccine and the bivalent oral polio vaccine, which protects against both circulating strains of polioviruses – type 1 and type 3, are being used in the on-going polio immunization campaigns in West Bengal and the supplementary immunization campaigns in the polio endemic states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and other polio high-risk areas