India on the verge of becoming polio-free

Despite years of skepticism that India would ever be able to stop polio from paralyzing its children, the country has shifted the balance and is on the verge of being declared free of polio.

The country utilized millions of volunteers, more than 150,000 supervisors and $2 billion in funding from India's government to get India to the point it has reached today. The last child paralyzed by polio in India became ill on January 13, 2010. It has been more than a year since poliovirus has been found in samples of sewage, the Canadian Press reports.

"It's not a miracle - it's good science and an awful lot of elbow grease," Bruce Aylward, the World Health Organization's assistant director general for polio, said, according to the Canadian Press.

If the country can produce 12 continuous months of polio-free surveillance data, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative will remove India from the list of polio-endemic countries. Other countries on the list are Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"We are very excited," Anuradha Gupta, the joint secretary of India's ministry of health and family welfare, said, according to the Canadian Press. "We think this progress is great, very heartening. But I think we are also mindful of the risks that still persist. This is not the end of the road."

India was successful because of better targeted vaccines and major improvements to the organization and planning of the country's strategy against polio. Experts hope that the other endemic countries will get a boost from the upcoming potential victory in India.

"It shows that with sustained effort and with a well organized program, it is successful in India and similar programs with different needs should be successful in the remaining countries too," John Sever, the vice-chair of Rotary International's PolioPlus program, said, according to the Canadian Press.