News / Asia

India Reports No Polio Cases for One Year

A child receives polio drops at a polio booth in the central Indian city of Bhopal, India, December 2008. (file photo)
A child receives polio drops at a polio booth in the central Indian city of Bhopal, India, December 2008. (file photo)
Lisa Schlein

The World Health Organization reports that for the first time in history, India has been without a single case of polio for one year. WHO says this momentous achievement boosts its global campaign to wipe polio off the face of the earth.

WHO says an entire year has passed in which no child in India has been paralyzed by polio. The last case recorded was that of a two-year-old girl in the state of West Bengal on January 13, 2011.

WHO calls this achievement particularly significant, as India always has been considered the toughest place on earth to stop the polio virus.  This is due to a combination of factors, including a poor health system and a large migrant community, compounded by high population density and poor sanitation.

Sona Bari is external relations officer for WHO’s Global Polio Eradication Initiative. She welcomed this milestone, but noted it is not the end of the road for India. Rather, she said, it is the start of a process.

“The next few weeks will be nail-biting weeks as we wait for the data on the last 12 months to come in. Every stool sample from a suspected case of polio, every sewage sample will have to test negative," said Bari. "But, when that happens, India will no longer be considered polio endemic. And, this map that the WHO puts out every month will have India un-shaded for the first time in history.”

Bari explained that India will be considered polio-free if no case of polio is detected in the next six weeks. After that, if no cases of polio are found in India for three years, she noted the whole WHO region of South-East Asia will be certified polio-free, providing an important push for the end of polio.  

When WHO launched its Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988, 350,000 children every year were paralyzed or killed by this crippling disease. That number fell to 620 cases reported in 16 countries in 2011.

Now that India has stopped the transmission of the wild poliovirus, only three polio endemic countries remain - Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.  

Bari said the political and civil instability in these countries are posing enormous challenges for polio eradication.  

“Pakistan and Nigeria in particular are on a precipice and it is an emergency right now to stop polio there. The governments are extremely conscious of this. But, as you just pointed out, they have a lot on their plate right now," said Bari. "Cases are rising in both those countries.  In Afghanistan, cases have spread outside of the southern regions or the southern part of the country. So all three are a cause for concern.”  

On a more optimistic note, Bari said India’s success in stopping polio transmission frees up resources that now can be spent on polio- eradication measures in the three remaining endemic countries.

WHO reports an alarming increase in the number of polio cases in Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2011, with Pakistan recording 192 cases and Afghanistan 76 cases. And, it notes poliovirus from Pakistan re-infected China, which had been polio-free since 1999.

In Africa, WHO says active polio transmission continues in Nigeria, which had 52 cases last year, in Chad and in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Outbreaks in West and Central Africa also occurred in the past 12 months.

Despite the success in India, WHO officials warn against complacency. They say the spread of polio in Africa shows that as long as polio exists somewhere, it remains a threat everywhere.

You May Like

Pakistan Among Developing Counties Hit Hard by Global Warming

Pakistani officials hope developed nations agree to scale back emissions, offer help in dealing with climate change

Video Speed, Social Media Shape Counterterrorism Probes

Speed is critical in effort to prevent subsequent attacks; demographics of extremists lend themselves to communicating, establishing profiles on digital platforms

Islamic State Oil Trade Seduces Friends, Foes Alike

Terrorist group rakes in up to $500 million a year in sales to customers such as Syrian government, US-supported rebels and Turkey

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigationsi
Katherine Gypson
December 01, 2015 10:06 PM
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigations

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Russia Marks World AIDS Day With Grim News

While HIV infection rates have steadied or even declined in many European countries, the caseload has grown rapidly in Russia, as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow. Over half of the new infections were transmitted through injection drug use.

Video Pakistan Hit Hard by Global Warming

As world leaders meet in Paris to craft a new global agreement aimed at cutting climate-changing greenhouse-gas emissions, many developing countries are watching closely for the final results. While most developing nations contribute much less to global warming than developed countries, they often feel the effects to a disproportionate degree. As Saud Zafar reports from Karachi, one such nation is Pakistan. Aisha Khalid narrates his report.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

VOA Blogs