The WHO announced that the South-East Asia Region has completed five years without any case of wild poliovirus, a highly infectious disease that invades the nervous system and for which there is still no cure.
This is a remarkable achievement in view of the continued threat of poliovirus importation from the remaining polio-endemic countries.
Countries in the region have been making commendable efforts, stepping up vigilance against polio and continuing to protect children against the crippling virus, noting that the last case of wild poliovirus reported by WHO in the South-East Asia Region was in West Bengal, India, in 2011.
The UN agency is underlining that completing half a decade without any case of wild poliovirus is “yet another achievement” and a reminder that efforts need to continue until the disease is eradicated globally.
As part of the Polio End Game strategy, a long-term plan that addresses what is needed to deliver a polio-free world by 2018, countries in the region are accelerating the introduction of one dose of injectable inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) in childhood immunization schedules, along with plans for a globally synchronized, phased and sequential withdrawal of oral polio vaccines from the programme.
WHO says these strategies are aimed at addressing all polio – including the rare cases of vaccine derived polio.
WHO’s South-East Asia Region comprises Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.