Saturday, March 3, 2012

Is Polio really gone from India?

Congrats India for remaining without reporting of any confirmed polio cases for one long year. This is indeed a mammoth achievement in the history of polio eradication in India.
India’s success should not be doubted because of the strong AFP (Acute Flaccid Paralysis) surveillance system that the country has been able to establish for years. It is very unlikely to miss a single AFP or polio case now due to a surveillance network that each and every public health professional of India should feel proud of.
But ‘no polio case for a year’ doesn’t indicate we, as a country has acquired the much-awaited ‘polio-free’ status.  A couple of more years with no polio cases will definitely justify our eligibility for the polio-free certification. But the next two years, will definitely demand the highest level politico-administrative commitment and the maximum operational level hard-work to ensure the polio virus no more exits in the environment of the country.
One of the most important aspects of the final phase of polio eradication should be making all-round efforts to strengthen Routine Immunization coverage, especially in the traditional polio-reservoirs of the country like UP and Bihar together with high quality supplementary immunization rounds (Pulse Polio).
Getting over the polio-fatigue is one of the most challenging jobs at the field operation; especially to keep the front line workers on their toes in each and every future Pulse Polio round is really tough in a war spanning for more than 18 years.  The motivational communication should categorically include high level appreciation to push the polio virus in the corner followed by the ardent appeal to erase it from every nook and corner of the country in the next couple of years.
 I strongly feel the frontline workers should be also given a much better remuneration now to extract the best possible services from them in the ground during the final assault against polio.
Cross-border surveillance and immunization should be collaborated with the neighbouring countries. This is one of the key areas that must be given all due importance and attention. There are instances where polio hit back an already polio-free country being exported from the neighbours.
Continuing advocacy with the neighbouring nations for concomitantly maintaining high quality immunization activities within their territories is equally critical to prevent any polio spillage across the borders that might put water to all the eradication initiative and achievements made so far.
If we can’t take precautions from all possible angles the victory over polio might be further delayed.
After all it is also the matter of survival for the virus so winning never remains an easy process.

Sugata M, Universal Health

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