NEW DELHI: In the coming months, eitherpolio will be finished globally or it will strike back with horrifying results, wiping out over two decades of global immunization drives. This unprecedented situation has led the World Health Organisation (WHO) to label it as an "emergency" even though polio cases have fallen to just 88 in 2012, and India has achieved theremarkable feat of remaining polio free since January 2011.
A similar danger of cross border transmission exists for India too because the other two polio-endemic countries are Afghanistan and Pakistan. But India's strong polio program offers some protection, unlike Africa. Pakistan has registered only 22 cases in 2012, a notable achievement after being criticized for its weak performance earlier.
Apart from this, flagging support has led many countries in Africa to stop immunization because no cases were reported. Lancet estimates 2.7 million under-5 children who have never been immunized in the region and many more who have been partially immunized. They are extremely vulnerable to polio attacks as they don't have any immunity. Experts say that if this happens, over 200,000 cases may appear every year over the coming decade.
"We're seeing all over the world a build up of young adults who were never exposed to polio virus, because polio has been eradicated from their area and there have been declining vaccination coverage levels", WHO's Oliver Rosenbauer told The Lancet Infectious Diseases.
"If polio virus gets in this group, there could be some really devastating outbreaks, far deadlier than we have seen in the past," he added.