It has been three years since a case of polio was reported in India.
That’s the period of time the World Health Organization requires a country to go without anyone catching polio before declaring itself polio-free. It’s a come-from-behind victory for the country, which was considered an especially challenging holdout thanks to its high population and, up until five years ago, accounted for almost half the world’s cases.
“The fact that we can put this disease in the history books is one of the greatest achievements of mankind,” says Dr. Mathew Varghese in a Gates Foundation video commemorating the event.
Recent generations of Americans don’t recall the scourge of the poliomyelitis virus that paralyzed children half a century ago, thanks in part to a widespread governmental and non-governmental eradication effort that is close to complete. But while cases plummeted by 99 percent since 1988, children are still dying in parts of the world. The virus only holds out in a few countries, in hard-to-reach locales, and any remaining stronghold of the disease could lead to a later resurgence. As it cannot live outside the human body, once eradicated the disease will be gone. A Global Emergency Action Plan established in 2012 expects to spend some $5.5 billion, and hopes to achieve eradication by 2018.
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Photo: Courtesy of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative