WHO takes India off of the polio-endemic countries list

The World Health Organization has taken India off of the list of polio-endemic countries, which suggests that the wild polio virus has been completely eliminated from the environment.

Ghulam Nabi Azad, the minister of Health and Family Planning, made the announcement at the Polio Summit 2012. Removal from the list is the result of India completing an entire year without a single case of polio, the Hindu reports.

"WHO has taken India's name off the list of polio endemic countries in view of the remarkable progress that we have made during the past one year," Azad said, according to the Hindu.

India must remain polio free for two additional years before it is declared polio-free by the organization. Previously, there were four countries on the endemic list, including Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In 2009, India reported 741 polio cases, which dropped to 42 cases in 2010. The last case was reported on January 13.

"We are greatly encouraged by the splendid progress that we have made during the last one year," Azad said, according to the Hindu. "We are aware that we cannot drop our guard. We have, therefore, put in place an Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan across the country. Under this plan, there is going to be zero tolerance for any new polio case and such a case will be declared as a public health emergency."

The country created rapid response teams throughout India to respond to any polio cases. It has also strengthened border surveillance for early detection of any imported polio virus cases.