India reports no polio cases in 2011

India reported no new cases of polio in 2011, a first for the second most populous country in the world.

The crippling illness, which mostly infects children, has been all but eradicated in the developed world, but remains endemic in a small number of countries, including Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan. As little as two decades ago, India reported nearly 5,000 cases of the disease every year, according to

Poor sanitation, malnutrition and a general distrust of vaccines contributed to polio's continued existence in the subcontinent. Major efforts to educate the public about the benefits of vaccination, particularly through the National Polio Surveillance Project, have helped turned the situation around.

The World Health Organization recently declared that India will no longer be included in the list of polio-endemic countries. Considering the public health challenges the country continues to face, this is a notable achievement, according to

India succeeded in creating local expertise in vaccination methods and the logistical skill to carry out a widespread inoculation and education campaign. That the efforts were primarily conducted by Indians themselves is considered critical because of the social and cultural factors that had previously stymied vaccination campaigns, according to

Experts hope that India's experience can prove to be a model for other polio-endemic countries, including neighboring Pakistan.