Uttar Pradesh, the largest state of India, registers its win against polio as the number of cases reported this year is only 12 as against the 1242 reported in the year 2002.
UNICEF, and an army of health workers from the government, and voluntary organizations of the country are leading the war against polio in India. Of the 1918 cases of polio detected worldwide in 2002, around 1600 were from India alone, and 1242 cases were registered in Uttar Pradesh. This year the number of polio cases globally had been registered at 759, with only 29 cases from India and 12 from Uttar Pradesh.
It has been a long story of fighting prejudice against immunization of the disease, ignorance in the minority community that the drops might cause impotence later on in life and distrust against the government for focusing so much on a single disease - which has been eradicated from much of the globe.
And Hapur in Ghaziabad district, adjoining New Delhi, perhaps epitomizes the struggle best. It remains one of the 12 polio-endemic areas in western Uttar Pradesh where the virus has been hitting back after every immunization round.
A lot of people here believed that polio drops would eventually lead people to impotency, so parents not only kept polio vaccinators at a safe distance but even intimidated them at times. It took some time before realization dawned that all the talk about impotency was wrong and the polio vaccine was actually good for children.
Evidently, none of the celebrity based advertisements worked as much as the involvement of local, influential people, particularly religious and spiritual leaders.
Significantly, the immunization teams include a large number of local Muslim women to increase trust perceptions.
But polio eradication is not only about immunization but also educating the people about cleanliness, sanitation and hygiene. Faecal material is the biggest carrier of the poliovirus, so we have to continue educating our masses about sanitation, besides making them realize that immunization was absolutely essential.
Medindia on Polio - Further information
Poliomyelitis or Polio: This is a viral disease that is highly infectious and can affect the nervous system to cause paralysis. It tends to affect children mostly, but can affect adults as well.
Polio eradication: polio had been eradicated from the developed countries through vaccination, but is still existent in India and some of the other developing countries.
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