Battling Polio: Against All Odds, India Reaches a Milestone

Battling Polio: Against All Odds, India Reaches a Milestone

01.12.12 | By Kate Connors

According to an Associated Press article in the Washington Post that caught my eye today, India has reached a remarkable - and admittedly surprising - milestone: one full year without any new diagnoses of polio.

"If no previously undisclosed cases of the crippling disease are discovered, India will no longer be considered polio endemic, leaving only Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria on that list," the article says.

It's quite an achievement for a country with poor sanitation, large amounts of poverty amid a dense population, and a weak public health infrastructure. However, a significant commitment to vaccination efforts from the country's federal government - aided in part by collaboration between biopharmaceutical companies and The Rotary Foundation - has stemmed the tide.

"In 2009, India had 741 cases. That plunged to 42 in 2010. Last year, there was a single case, an 18-month-old girl named Ruksana Khatun who fell ill in West Bengal state Jan. 13. She was the country's last reported polio victim," according to the article.

Because the virus might remain dormant in the environment, this step forward does not fully mean the eradication of this crippling diseases from India for another three years; because of this, vaccination efforts will need to continue, as will close monitoring of the population.

Still, it's a big step, as well as a testament to the power of access to health care. Hopefully the remaining three countries will eventually - and sooner rather than later - follow suit.

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