India reported just one polio case this year — on January 13 in the Howrah district of West Bengal — bringing India closest to polio eradication ever.
Globally, 467 polio cases were reported in 16 countries till October 19, 2011, with Pakistan leading the pack with 118.
No polio cases have been reported in Uttar Pradesh since April 2010 and in Bihar since September 2010, the two states where the virus was refusing to die out. In 2010, India reported 39 cases, the lowest ever since 66 in 2005.
Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, however, cautioned against complacency. “We are close to our goal but not taking any chances. Efforts have been intensified to stop residual polio virus circulation and also prevent importation from other countries,” he said.
India is on alert because neighbouring China and Pakistan have had a spurt in polio cases this year.
To prevent importation from neighbouring countries, all border states are on high alert.
“All children crossing over into India by road and train are being administered polio vaccine. To mitigate the risk of importation of infection from Pakistan, India started immunisation at the Wagah border and Attari train station in Punjab since September and Munabo in Barmer district of Rajasthan this month,” said Azad.
Regular vaccination is also being carried out at 81 transit points along the Indo-Nepal border in UP and Bihar since April.
In 2009, India topped global polio charts, reporting almost half — 46% or 741 cases — of the global total of 1,604 infections. In 2008, India had 559 cases, second to Nigeria with 798 cases.
The double-strain bivalent oral polio vaccine that targets both remaining serotypes (Type 1 & 3) has emerged as a potent weapon against the crippling virus. It was introduced in January last year. No Type 3 polio virus has been reported in over one year. Last year, supplementary immunisation was also intensified in high-risk sub-districts of western Uttar Pradesh, and areas of central Bihar, such as the Kosi River basin that is flooded six months in a year.