After 5 Polio-Free Years, WHO Official Says Risk Persists

New Vaccine To Protect Children Against Wild Polio Strains WHO
WHO said efforts were ongoing to protect children with polio vaccine, increase routine immunisation coverage, focus on the most vulnerable and hard to reach population and step-up vigil against poliovirus importation. (Representational Image)

Polio transmission may be at its lowest-ever levels globally, but a top WHO official has warned that the risk of the virus being transmitted into all polio-free areas still persists.

On January 13, WHO South-East Asia Region completed five years without any case of wild poliovirus. “Globally, polio transmission is at its lowest ever levels. However, the risk of importation of the poliovirus into all polio-free areas persists,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director for WHO South-East Asia.

She said it is a “remarkable achievement” that no case of the wild poliovirus has been reported in the past five years despite the continued threat of its spread from the remaining polio-endemic countries.

The WHO South-East Asia Region reported its last case of wild polio virus in West Bengal in 2011, which resulted in polio-free certification of the region on March 27, 2014. According to the World Health Organisation or WHO, “Before a Region can be certified polio-free, several conditions must be satisfied such as: at least three years of zero confirmed cases due to indigenous wild poliovirus; excellent laboratory-based surveillance for poliovirus; demonstrated capacity to detect, report, and respond to imported cases of poliomyelitis; and assurance of safe containment of polioviruses in laboratories.”

“Countries in the region have been making commendable efforts, stepping up vigilance against polio and continuing to protect children against the crippling virus. Completing half-a-decade without any case of wild poliovirus is yet another achievement,” Dr Singh said. 80 per cent of the world is now polio-free.

“We need to ensure that our efforts and investment over the years to eradicate polio do not go waste,” Dr Singh added.

“A polio-free world is in sight. We must continue to make efforts to rid the world of the crippling disease,” she stressed.