According to the data provided by the Global Polio Eradication initiative, the only two countries where polio remains a source of constant worry in the world is Nigeria and Afghanistan. This is because three cases in Nigeria and four cases in Afghanistan have been reported in 2011 alone. Apart from them, even Pakistan recorded a confirmed 12 cases of polio. Talking about India, even though World Health Organization had struck India’s name out of the list of polio-endemic countries in 2011, in the early March a 17-month-old baby girl showed alarming symptoms of polio in the southern fringes of Kolkata.
India has not recorded a case since, a fact substantiated by monthly sensitive environmental testing conducted in sewage sites in New Delhi, Mumbai and Patna.
But, now the big question comes- does all of this conclude that polio scare doesn’t exist anymore?
Abha Khetarpal, a polio survivor herself, talks about the polio scare in India. She believes that another two years are needed to pass without a case of the disease before the country of 1.2bn inhabitants would formally be declared free of the monster called polio.
She then goes on to say, “India has reported its first case of vaccine derived polio virus (VDPV) infection of 2012 in West Bengal but only infections caused by wild polio virus strains like P1 and P3 get counted. Polio scare still persists today in spite of India being taken off the list of ‘polio epidemic countries’. Many cases have the chances of going unreported especially in rural poverty stricken areas as well as in tribal regions. Moreover sometime back, polio cases were reported due to the administration of expired polio vaccine to the children. So how can we take such tall claims for granted? Importation of wild polio virus remains the greatest threat to children in India as well as Pakistan still is a polio epidemic country. So as long as this wild polio virus is wiped off from the whole of our sub continent, polio scare would continue”
According to the UNICEF, “Any child who suddenly develops floppiness or paralysis in any part of the body should be investigated thoroughly as part of the polio surveillance drive”.
Polio is one of the main causes behind the paralysis of children and according to a UNICEF data as many as 60,782 children were investigated with paralysis.
The Bottom Line. Polio is not at all the mysterious, deadly disease it is made out to be. Although how polio is spread has not been truly examined to the depths; it is linked to a number of conditions that are not present on the Indian diaspora anymore. It is certainly cause for alarm if polio-suspect cases like the one reported in Kolkata occur again.
Abha is the counselor for the students with disabilities at University College of Medical Sciences, (UCMS) & GTB Hospital Delhi and the president of a NGO called Cross the Hurdles.
*Image courtesy: © Thinkstock photos/ Getty Images
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