After years of struggles to prevent the spread of poliomyelitis or polio, the infectious disease that invades the nervous system - mainly affecting children under five - India will be declared polio-free by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on 13 January.
"If no case of polio are detected in the country by 13 January, India will be declared polio free by WHO," Union minister for health Ghulam Nabi Azad had informed a group of journalists earlier this week.
The WHO, which has been closely working with the Indian government on the issue, deems a country polio free, if it does not have a case of polio for three consecutive years.
India had achieved another major milestone in the field two years ago, with the WHO striking it off the list of polio endemic countries on 25 February 2012, after the nation managed one year without any cases of polio.
India has not reported a case of polio, after a two-year-old girl was paralyzed by polio in the Howrah district of West Bengal on 13 January 2011. The last reported case of Ruksha Shah, who just has a slight limp, is the only remnant of the polio infection that ravaged her in 2011. The disease left her right leg a little shorter and weaker.
According to WHO reports, India is one of the largest donors to polio eradication, and till 2013, India had contributed US$2 billion towards polio eradication programmes.
WHO officials will declare India polio-free on 13 January, which means the virus has died in the environment. New cases, if any, would be caused by the infection coming in another country.?
It is indeed seen has a victory for the fight against polio, as in 2009 India had 50 percent share in the world's polio cases. With India off the list, there are only three more countries in the world which are still polio-endemic - Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.
A country that had 150,000 polio cases in 1985 completely ridding out the virus is indeed a milestone. However, the country's polio eradication programme will have to stay on track, as there are still places where immunization programmes are yet to be accepted by local communities.
Polio Fact-sheet India(As per WHO)
- Cases in 2011: 1 (last case 13 January 2011)
- Cases in 2010: 42
- Cases in 2009: 741
- Cases in 1991: 6,028
- Cases in 1985: 150,000
- Last wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) case: 13 January 2011, Howrah, West Bengal
- Last wild poliovirus type 2 (WPV2) case: October 1999, Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh
- Last wild poliovirus type 3 (WPV3) case: 22 October 2010, Pakur, Jharkhand
- Last positive case from monthly environmental sewage sampling (conducted in Delhi, Mumbai and Patna): November 2010, Mumbai