`Global plan to wipe out polio by 2012 off track`

Polio is highly infectious as it invades the nervous system, leading to irreversible paralysis.

London: The goal to wipe out polio from
the world by the end of 2012 is "off track", a group of
international experts has said, but hailed India for making
remarkable progress in tackling the disease.

An expert panel, which monitors the Global Polio
Eradication Initiative, expressed concern that despite efforts
to wipe out the disease, polio outbreaks have been reported in
14 countries since the start of 2010.

While some 1,000 cases were reported worldwide last
year, the disease has also resurfaced in four other countries,
said the Independent Monitoring Board of the Global Polio
Eradication Initiative (GPEI).

However, it praised India for having had just one case
of polio in the first six months of this year.

Sir Liam Donaldson, the former chief medical officer
of Britain who heads GPEI, said: "India has done something
simple -- it`s run very high quality vaccination campaigns.
They have public health leaders who are meticulous in making
sure every child is vaccinated."

"If they can do it, why can`t other countries?" he was
quoted as saying by a news channel.

Polio is highly infectious and it strikes children
aged under five. It invades the nervous system, leading to
irreversible paralysis. There is no cure, but a vaccine of
mouth droplets can give good protection.

According to the experts, though polio cases have
declined by 99 per cent worldwide since GPEI was set up in
1988, the virus still present in countries like Afghanistan,
India, Nigeria and Pakistan.

The experts are particularly concerned about new cases
in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Chad.

The Polio Eradication Programme in India aims at
eradicating the disease by immunising every child under 5 with
the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV). In 2002, there were 1,613 polio
cases in India, but it registered a 94 per cent decline in

According to the experts, the Global Polio Eradication
Initiative`s target to eradicate it by 2012 might be elusive.
Sir Liam said: "There was a big impact in tackling it
in the first two decades since the goal.

"But we still have this very big rump of cases left
behind. Tackling the remaining one per cent of polio is the
greatest challenge yet."

The experts, who identified a funding gap of 366
million pounds, noted that strong political and community
leadership is important in the countries with polio outbreaks.

"Our view remains that stopping polio transmission
needs to be treated as a global health emergency," they said.

"Fourteen countries have had polio outbreaks since the
start of 2010. It is alarming and bad for the programme`s
morale that there are still these surprises.

"Polio eradication is still possible in the near-term
if there is enhanced political commitment, secure funding and
strengthened technical capacity."


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