The World Health Organization has confirmed that India has gone a whole year without having a new case of polio — a major milestone in a country that was once plagued by the crippling disease. BBC’s Fergus Walsh explains that the country won’t formally be regarded as polio-free until it’s gone another two years without a case of the disease, but reaching the one-year mark is still an occasion for celebration. In an earlier piece, Walsh describes the massive polio vaccination effort that has allowed the country to achieve this success; India’s government partnered with the World Health Organization, Rotary, UNICEF, and the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation.
Public health successes like this one require a sustained commitment from institutions (governmental and non) and participation from support from entire populations. And when it comes to viruses, we can’t truly declare victory until they’ve been eradicated worldwide. Last fall, Maryn McKenna highlighted disturbing findings from an indpendent monitoring board, which warned that global polio eradication efforts need to address negative news and criticisms more productively in order to get back on track. And Walsh notes that nearly one-third of the polio cases reported last year were in Pakistan, which shares a border with India and could lead to reintroduction of the virus there.
For the moment, though, it’s worth congratulating India on its success and remembering that ambitious public health goals are attainable and worth reaching.