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WHO: India close to being polio-free

Jan. 13, 2012 at 8:50 AM

GENEVA, Switzerland, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- India, once the world's center of polio, is on track to be free of the disease, with no registered cases reported in 2011, a U.N. report said.

If all pending samples for the virus test negative, India will be rid of the disease for the first time in its history, the U.N. World Health Organization said. That would leave Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria among the still polio-endemic countries, the report said.

"India's success is arguably its greatest public health achievement and has provided a global opportunity to push for the end of polio," WHO Director General Margaret Chan stated in a news release.

"Stopping polio in India required creativity, perseverance and professionalism -- many of the innovations in polio eradication were sparked by the challenges in India."

U.N. Children's Fund Executive Director Anthony Lake attributed India's progress to strong leadership at a national and state level, which pushed for a comprehensive eradication program, allowing the very poor and populous states to have high immunization coverage.

"We have the ability to protect every last person, especially children, from this entirely preventable disease -- and because we can, we must finish the job of eradicating polio globally, once and for all," he said.

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