15 January 2014

India is now officially polio-free

"Dr. Mathew Varghese, an orthopedic surgeon, runs India's last polio ward at St. Stephen's Hospital in Delhi.  Five years ago, India accounted for nearly half of all new wild poliovirus cases in the country. As of 13 January 2014, the country will celebrate three years without a single case. It's one of the greatest public health accomplishments of all time, and a powerful reminder of just how important it is to continue the fight to eradicate polio worldwide."
From the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation website, where Mr. Gates offers this commentary:
"Five years ago, India was home to nearly half of the world’s new polio cases. At the time, if you asked any health expert, they would have said India would be the last place on earth to end polio. India’s population density and high birth rate (27 million new children are born each year), combined with poor sanitation, was like a petri dish for polio.

But the government of India, with help from the organizations that make up the Global Polio Eradication Initiative including Rotary International launched an all-out effort to stop the disease. The country deployed 2 million vaccinators to reach children who had never before been reached with polio vaccines or any other health services—children who live in flooded regions or hard-to-find rural towns, or are regularly in-transit with their families. One of the most powerful images I’ve seen during my visits to India is that of parents proudly holding vaccination cards showing that their children were protected from deadly diseases for the first time.

And now that these children have been found, health workers can supply them with much more than just polio drops. They can provide other critical health services like measles vaccines, clean water, and information about how to deliver their babies safely and care for them during their first weeks of life."
This graph from the WHO, via The Dish:

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