AsianScientist (Sep. 10, 2012) – East Asia is set to be free from polio disease by early 2014, said Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), on Thursday.
Chan made the announcement while in the Yogyakarta province of Indonesia for the WHO Indonesia Regional Committee for South-East Asia: sixty-fifth session.
“This is a magnificent achievement, we must now eradicate polio globally,” Chan was quoted as saying by the Antara news wire.
India, once recognized as the world’s epicenter of polio, appears to have interrupted wild poliovirus transmission, completing one year without polio since its last case on January 13, 2011, in a two-year-old girl in the state of West Bengal, said Chan.
Each year, more than 170 million Indian children under the age of five are vaccinated in two national immunization campaigns, with up to 70 million children in the highest-risk areas vaccinated multiple times in additional special campaigns.
By 2013, India will have contributed US$2 billion to polio eradication in the country, with it being a largely self-financed effort.
Earlier this year, mobile health teams in Bangladesh conducted “child-to-child” searches to reach the remaining half million children not vaccinated during a nationwide polio immunization campaign. The campaign’s goal was to vaccinate 22 million children under five, and only 560,791 children remained short of reaching it.
The number of polio-endemic countries, those which have never stopped indigenous wild poliovirus transmission, will then be reduced to a historical low of three: Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan, said Chan.
In 2011, Afghanistan and Pakistan both saw alarming increases in polio cases, and poliovirus from Pakistan re-infected China in September (which had been polio-free since 1999) in the Xinjiang region. Chinese authorities responded to the polio outbreak with an aggressive immunization campaign.
Pakistani officials have also established vaccination kiosks at all security checkpoints in tribal and far-off areas to vaccinate children under the age of 15 as they passed through the checkpoints.
Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine; Photo: defeatdd.org
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