The World Health Organization (WHO) declared South-East Asia region as polio-free region. The certification is being hailed as a historic milestone in the global fight to eradicate the deadly virus. It came after, when WHO certified India officially polio-free after the country went three years with no new cases of the illness.
- India embarked on the programme to eradicate polio 19 years ago in 1995, when the disease used to cripple more than 50,000 children in the country every year. Since January 2011, India has been polio free nation.
- Southeast Asia is the fourth of six WHO regions to officially eradicate the disease, which means 80 % of the world’s population now lives in a polio-free area.
- Other WHO Regions that are certified as polio-free: the Region of the Americas (1994), the Western Pacific Region(2000) and the European Region (2002).
- Though, the disease is still endemic in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.
- Sri Lanka, Maldives and Bhutan have been free of the virus for more than 15 years.
- Member states in the WHO’s Southeast Asia Region: Bangladesh, Bhutan, South Korea, India,Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.
- The polio-free tag does not mean the end of polio vaccination. Now, nations will have to work towards introducing the injectable polio vaccine and the eventual phasing out of oral polio vaccines.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.
Note: Polio- a viral disease that mainly affects children under five years old. The virus is transmitted through contaminated food and water, and multiplies in the intestine. It can then invade the nervous system, causing paralysis in one in every 200 infections.