Skip to main content

Global health success: India certified free of polio

updated 11:36 AM EDT, Thu March 27, 2014
Polio can lead to paralyisis of the arms and legs. An Indian polio patient lies on a bed during treatment in New Delhi, India in January 2014. Polio can lead to paralyisis of the arms and legs. An Indian polio patient lies on a bed during treatment in New Delhi, India in January 2014.
HIDE CAPTION
India's fight against polio
India's fight against polio
India's fight against polio
India's fight against polio
India's fight against polio
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • India's last polio case reported in January 13, 2011
  • India had been considered one of the hardest places to end polio
  • World Health Organization issues official certification Thursday

(CNN) -- India has been certified polio-free by the World Health Organization after going three years without an endemic case of polio. The eradication of polio in India is heralded as one of the biggest achievements in global health efforts.

The polio-free certification by the Regional Certification Commission came Thursday, along with a proclamation that Southeast Asia is free of the disease.

Just five years ago, India was home to nearly half the global polio cases and considered one of the most technically difficult places to eradicate the disease, because of sanitation challenges and high-density population.

India's last case was reported in a young girl paralyzed by polio in West Bengal in January 2011.

Could she be India's last polio patient?
Polio rises from the grave

Meet the last person to have polio in India

So how did the second most populous country in the world, considered the hardest place to end polio, become free of the disease?

Health workers determined that the children of migrants or those growing up in difficult-to-reach areas were not getting access to vaccines. So they deployed immunization efforts to reach the most vulnerable, according to UNICEF.

India launched a massive effort involving a surveillance network and almost 2.3 million vaccine administrators, who identified communities falling through the cracks.

To counter rumors and misgivings about the vaccine, social mobilizers, religious leaders and parents were included to increase understanding about immunizations.

They also bolstered communication and outreach efforts that often included Bollywood celebrities and cricket players. The efforts combined government, various U.N. agencies as well as philanthropic organizations.

The highly infectious viral disease primarily affects young children and could lead to paralysis and death. It can be prevented through immunization, but there is no cure.

The incidence of the disease has dropped by more than 99% since 1988. It remains endemic in three countries -- Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan -- down from more than 125 countries in 1988.

Vaccinating children against polio can be a deadly job

Polio workers in those countries have been facing violence as some militant groups have begun targeting anti-polio campaigns.

In December, the WHO began vaccination efforts to reach more than 23 million children across the Middle East following an outbreak of the disease in Syria.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 5:06 PM EST, Wed November 26, 2014
Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson says he was just doing his "job right" when he shot and killed black teenager Michael Brown.
updated 8:18 PM EST, Sun November 23, 2014
The interior of the Formosa Boulevard Mass Rapid Transit Station in Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan.
Stunning stations where your first priority won't be finding the nearest exit.
updated 6:18 PM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says women's "nature is different," sparking fury.
updated 5:43 AM EST, Mon November 24, 2014
A 30-year-old woman has been charged with attempting to kill a baby police say spent five days down a drain before being discovered by cyclists.
updated 8:21 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
If it wasn't for a comic's skit, Bill Cosby would still be America's favorite father, says expert.
updated 7:51 PM EST, Sun November 23, 2014
Where do hip young things hang out in Taiwan?
updated 10:50 AM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
Obama orders the most sweeping overhaul of U.S. immigration in decades, prioritizing the deportation of "felons, not families."
updated 4:06 PM EST, Tue November 18, 2014
Fighters loyal to ISIS are now in control of Derna, a city on Libya's Mediterranean coast.
updated 6:19 PM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
China and likely other countries have the capacity to shut down the U.S. power grid, says the NSA.
updated 2:45 PM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
The founder of a U.S. nonprofit that works with returning soldiers is named CNN's Hero of the Year.
updated 10:57 AM EST, Wed November 26, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT