The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has revealed that only one polio case has been detected so far this year in the country, thus making it the longest polio-free period ever since eradication efforts were launched.
"The only case of polio reported this year has been from Howrah district in West Bengal on January 13, as compared to 39 cases in the country in the same period of 2010. For the first time no case of polio has been reported from UP (since April 2010) and also from Bihar (since September 2010)," the ministry said in a statement.
"No case of type 3 polio has come up for over a year. Closest ever to eradicating polio, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has decided to treat any fresh case of polio as a "public health emergency" in order to achieve polio eradication from India at the earliest," it added.
The Ministry also said that an 'Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan' has been drawn up to intensify measures to build the immunity of children in all high risk areas and also to conduct intensive immunization campaigns rapidly in response to any polio cases if they occurred.
In context of World Polio Day, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad noted that while the progress this year is remarkable, the risk still persists.
"We are close to our goal but are not taking any chances. Efforts will be further intensified in the country to stop any residual poliovirus circulation and also to prevent any polio cases following an international importation," he observed.
Azad also noted that the remarkable progress follows introduction of bivalent oral polio vaccine besides persistent efforts over the last few years in the highest risk areas and in reaching the most vulnerable populations such as the newborns, the migrants and the mobile populations.
"To mitigate the risk of polio importation from Pakistan which is experiencing a spurt in cases and has re-infected China, polio immunization has begun at the Wagah border and Attari train station in Punjab since September and Munabo in Barmer district of Rajasthan since this month," the statement said.
"All children crossing over into India by road and train are being administered polio vaccine. An alert has been sounded in the states bordering China to step up polio surveillance. Continuous polio vaccination is also being carried out at 81 transit points along the Indo-Nepal border in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar since April this year, the Minister said," it added.