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Including India, 80% of the World's Population is now in Polio-free Certified Regions
Mar 29, 2014

World Health Organisation's (WHO) South-East Asia Region, which is home to a quarter of the world's population, was certified polio-free on 27 March. Out of six WHO regions, this is the fourth to be certified, marking an important step towards global polio eradication

WHO's South-East Asia Region comprises of 11 member states: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People's Republic of Korea ( North Korea), India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.

India has not reported a single wild poliovirus (WPV) case in the last three years. The last known case was of an 18-month-old girl from West Bengal, in 2011. Before a region can be certified polio-free, for at least three years there should be no cases of indigenous WPV.

The two regions that are still plagued by the virus are the East Mediterranean region that includes Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the African region that includes Nigeria. Pakistan is still a hotbed for polio infection with the number of cases going up from 58 in 2012 to 92 in 2013. In the case of Afghanistan, the figures for WPV cases have actually dropped, from 37 in 2012 to 14 last year.

Certification of the region comes as countries prepare for the introduction of Injectable Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) in routine immunisation as part of the eventual phasing out of Oral Polio Vaccines (OPV). More than 120 countries currently use only OPV. These countries will introduce a dose of IPV by the end of 2015 as part of their commitment to the global polio endgame plan which aims to ensure a polio-free world by 2018.

Inspite of eradication of Polio from the region, India faces a threat of cross infection from neighbouring countries and should not put their guard down. Importation of virus from neighbouring countries is a high possibility and India should not put its guard down.Until polio is globally eradicated, all countries are at risk and the Region's polio-free status remains fragile. High immunisation coverage can prevent an imported virus from finding an underimmunized, susceptible population. A sensitive surveillance system, able to quickly detect and identify any importation and guide a programmatic response, is critical.


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