Recent dramatic data revealed that polio stats declined in India making the disease now considered to be eradicated in the country. In the previous three years not one case has been reported anywhere in the India. The last disclosed contraction of polio was in 2011 in West Bengal.
India is a country besieged by issues such as both high birth rates as well as population density, poor sanitation, remote areas where it is hard to extend adequate health care and reluctance in some of the population to seek medical help. The news that the polio stats declined in India because there has not been one polio case in the last three years gives cause to celebrate. Polio is not to be taken lightly as it can cause paralysis and lead to death. The success of the recent eradication of polio in India is due to the mobilized commitment of the government, and the assistance of local and international organizations.
Mainly children under five are at risk for the highly infectious disease. Polio is a virus that spreads through the sharing of food or water or contact with contaminated liquids such as sewage water. Although it is estimated that one in 200 people infected will result in incurable paralysis, the danger is that even if one person is infected, the disease is so contagious that it can lead to an epidemic. If infected, a person may experience paralysis within a matter of hours and if the virus via the nervous system reaches the breathing muscles, the person will die. It is for this reason that the global groups involved in the fight against polio have called the overwhelming reduction of cases of polio in India, a victory.
The new numbers are partly due to the introduction in India of the bivalent oral vaccination, as opposed to the monovalent vaccination. The monovalent vaccination was useful in fighting the type 1 poliovirus transmission while the newer vaccination could eliminate cases of the type 3 poliovirus transmission. It is the type 3 poliovirus which resulted in continual outbreaks in India.
In nearby Pakistan, one of three countries in the world where polio is endemic, polio cases are routinely reported. In 2013 eighty-five cases were noted in Pakistan, the second highest rate in the world after Somalia where a reported 183 cases were registered. Combatting polio in Pakistan has been a challenge for health workers as they are often regarded with suspicion. The quest to find Osama Bin Laden was said to have been helped by spies posing as health workers tracking down polio cases.
To be certified by the World Health Organization as a country free from polio, the country must not register one case of polio over a duration of three years. While India met this qualification with the help of two million people involved in the process of eradicating polio, the victims of polio are believed to be in the several millions. Yes, polio rates have been eliminated in India, but the scars remain.
By Persephone Abbott
Times of India