“India was taken off a list of polio endemic countries by the World Health Organization on Saturday, marking a massive victory for health workers battling the crippling disease” and “leav[ing] just three countries with endemic polio — Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria,” Agence France-Presse reports (2/26). “Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said the WHO removed India from the list after the country passed one year without registering any new cases,” the Associated Press/CBS News writes, adding, “India must pass another two years without new cases to be declared polio-free” (2/27).
Indian Authorities Vaccinate Children Crossing India-Pakistan Border; Distrust Of Polio Vaccines Grows In Pakistan
After going a year without recording a polio case, Indian health officials have begun vaccinating young children who cross the border to or from Pakistan at the Munabao railway station in Rajasthan state, BBC News reports. “The drive was launched after more than 175 cases of polio were reported in Pakistan, officials said,” the news agency writes (2/16).
The PBS NewsHour examines polio eradication efforts in India, which has gone an entire year without reporting a polio case. “For India, the challenge is to remain vigilant and polio free for two more years to officially fall off the list of endemic countries,” according to the news service (De Sam Lazaro, 2/20). “The success in India has been achieved through a partnership between the Indian government, with support from the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary, UNICEF and with major contributions from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” BBC News reports in an analysis of India’s success. “The global effort to eradicate polio is the biggest public health initiative in history. It has cost billions and has already stopped a huge amount of disability and many deaths,” but the disease remains endemic in three countries — Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, the news service notes (Walsh, 2/19).
In this video report, PBS NewsHour’s “The Rundown” examines curable and preventable diseases such as measles and river blindness that countries are focusing more effort on fighting. Mark Eberhardt, a neglected tropical diseases expert at the CDC, and Stephen Cochi, a measles and polio expert from the CDC, “describe the diseases and why they still need attention.” “‘They are often ignored,’ [Eberhardt] told the NewsHour’s Hari Sreenivasan. ‘There was often thought to be very little that could be done for them which has led to neglect from the scientific community and even the local population,'” the news blog notes (Rogo, 2/20).
Pakistan and Afghanistan, “the world’s two worst polio-affected countries,” have “decided to form a joint block under the World Health Organization to eradicate the infectious disease — which causes motor paralysis and the atrophy of skeletal muscles, often resulting in permanent physical disability or deformity — by December 2012,” Inter Press Service reports. “The decision was made last year by the Technical Advisory Board (TAG), which is responsible for developing new strategies to wipe out the disease globally,” the news service notes.
This report — titled “The Race to Eradication,” published on Friday by the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), and written by Jennifer Cooke, director of the CSIS Africa Program, and Farha Tahir, a program coordinator and research associate in the program — examines efforts to eradicate polio in Nigeria, a country that “remains one of the most entrenched reservoirs of poliovirus in the world,” according to the report summary. CSIS writes on its website, “The Nigerian experience has underscored the complexity of the eradication endeavor and vividly demonstrates the fragility and reversibility of gains made to date” (2/10).
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday during travel to India met with Indian Minister of Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nazi Azad and “commend[ed] the country’s progress on health,” its “continued efforts towards achieving universal health coverage,” and its “commitment to the Global Strategy on Women’s and Children’s Health,” highlighting “its innovative programs in this area” and “the need to do more to promote the well-being of women and children,” the U.N. News Centre reports (4/26). Recognizing the “work still to be done to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, Ban said he would like to showcase India’s experiences and best practices in dealing with maternal and child health issues for others to follow,” according to the IANS/Daily News. Ban also “said [U.N.] member nations … are ready to help India in dealing with polio, malaria, tetanus, measles and HIV transmission-related mortality,” the news service notes (4/26).
“A ‘final push’ is needed toward eradication of polio worldwide, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said” in an online update on the agency’s polio eradication efforts, United Press International reports. “Polio incidence dropped more than 99 percent since the launch of global polio eradication efforts in 1988 and no polio cases have been reported since January 2011 in India, one of the four remaining endemic countries, a CDC report said,” UPI writes. “‘Nevertheless, poliovirus transmission is ongoing in the other three endemic countries — Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan — and travelers have carried the infection back to 39 previously polio-free countries over the last several years,’ [the update] said,” according to UPI.
Large Childhood Immunization Campaign Begins In Haiti, With Support From U.S., Other International Partners
Haiti, the U.S. and other international partners on Monday launched “a nationwide vaccination campaign in the Caribbean country that seeks to curb or prevent infectious diseases, health officials said,” the Associated Press/Fox News reports. The campaign will include immunizations against measles, rubella and polio, as well as the pentavalent vaccine, which is effective against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenza type b, according to the news agency. Immunization rates are low in Haiti, with the WHO reporting slightly more than half of the population immunized for measles and polio, but the current campaign aims to vaccinate 90 percent of Haiti’s youth population, according to Health Minister Florence Duperval Guillaume, the news agency notes.
“South Sudan officials are hopeful the country will soon be declared polio-free,” if the nation can go another four months without recording a polio case, VOA News reports. “Before 2008, the area that is now South Sudan had been considered free of polio,” but “[t]hat year the country was re-infected through an imported strain that originated in Nigeria,” the news service writes. The country has not recorded a new case in more than 32 months, Abdi Aden Mohamed, head of the WHO in South Sudan, said, adding, “We are very cautious in the sense of there are a number of countries surrounding South Sudan that cases might be here and there,” according to VOA. Volunteers working to vaccinate every child under the age of six recently concluded the country’s 24th immunization campaign since polio reappeared in the nation, the news service notes (Green, 3/30).