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 8:31 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
James Dawes: Evil is the strongest word we have to prepare ourselves to kill others.
updated 9:59 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
As protests over the shooting of an unarmed black teen calmed down, the question remains: Where's the police officer who pulled the trigger?
updated 5:22 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
CNN's Tim Lister: Getting rid of ISIS will be tougher than taking on al Qaeda.
updated 8:42 PM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
American patients infected with Ebola are being released from the hospital. What now?
updated 6:48 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
One of the first observers at the MH17 crash site in Ukraine describes the harrowing scene.
updated 9:53 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Five survivors of acid attacks capture India's attention with a "ground breaking" photo shoot.
updated 8:19 AM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
In an exclusive CNN interview, Lance Armstrong admits to having a "f**k you" attitude.
updated 8:36 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
The pain that Michael Brown's parents are going through is something Sybrina Fulton can relate to. She, too, lost a son in a controversial shooting.
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid gestures during the UEFA Super Cup match between Real Madrid and Sevilla at Cardiff City Stadium on August 12, 2014 Cardiff, Wales.
"We are like one grain of sand against a whole beach," says Eibar fan Unai Eraso.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
updated 6:22 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
From fierce protests in Ferguson, to an Ebola survivor discharged from a hospital in Atlanta, browse through the photos of the week.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT