Eleven South-East Asia countries certified polio-free: WHO
Eighty percent of the world’s population is now certified as being polio-free with the recent announcement from the World Health Organization certifying the South-East Asia Region Friday.
This is the fourth of six WHO Regions to be certified polio-free and includes the following 11 countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.
This region alone accounts for 25 percent of the world’s population.
“This is a momentous victory for the millions of health workers who have worked with governments, nongovernmental organizations, civil society and international partners to eradicate polio from the Region. It is a sign of what we can bequeath our children when we work together,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director for the WHO South-East Asia Region.
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 (introduced since 2000).
While celebrating the historic achievement, the WHO Regional Director also sounded a word of caution to maintain high vigilance against importation of polio. “Until polio is globally eradicated, all countries are at risk and the Region’s polio-free status remains fragile. High immunization coverage can prevent an imported virus from finding an underimmunized, susceptible population. A sensitive surveillance system, able to quickly detect and identify any importation and guide a programmatic response, is critical,” she added.
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