New Delhi, Jul 27: Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan says that he is happy about India being polio-free for three years and receiving WHO certification, but warned against becoming complacent and neglecting steps to save the country from getting re-infected by the polio virus.
“I feel so happy and satisfied… We are talking to each other in a polio-free India which has been certified polio-free by World Health Organization and in the last three years we have not seen any case of polio. I think the credit for all this goes to the whole country.
“A part of me is satisfied but we can’t afford to be complacent. Unfortunately, we have cases of polio in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. And we have the horror story of 2009 and 2010 where 23 countries which were being declared as polio-free actually had once again been infected by polio virus because people travelled from one place carrying polio virus to the other place,” the minister said here at a function to mark India being certified polio-free.
Megastar Amitabh Bachchan, who has been actively campaigning for polio eradication since 2002 and was appointed a Unicef Goodwill Ambassador with a focus on HIV/AIDS and polio eradication in April 2005, was felicitated at the function.
Polio is an infectious disease that usually infects children under the age of five, attacking the central nervous system causing paralysis, and sometimes death. The last polio case was recorded in 2011 in a village of West Bengal. In 2012, India was removed from the list of polio endemic countries by WHO after it passed one year without registering any new cases.
Harsh Vardhan was also open to helping other polio virus infected nations. “Surveillance system has been set up which is rated as best in world. The surveillance medical officers need to be vigilant and children’s immunity level needs to be strong and we have to continue giving polio vaccines to them.
“We need to be prepared and alert… In other countries where the disease is still there, we would like to share our experience and help them through WHO medium,” he said. After polio eradication, he is now aiming to free the country from measles and other diseases. Unicef India Representative Louis Georges Arsenault, WHO Representative to India Nata Menabde and Rotary Foundation trustee Sushil Gupta were also present at the event.