Not a single case of polio has been reported in India in nine months, officials report, leading some to speculate that the country may soon ditch its Third World image as it becomes a major global player.
India began its polio eradication efforts almost 20 years ago. It is one of just four countries in which polio remains prevalent. The others are Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria. A country can consider that it has eradicated polio after no cases are reported for three years, according to the World Health Organization.
"We are close to our goal, but are not taking any chances," said Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.
Reported cases of polio in India dropped from 200,000 in 1985 to 50,000 in 1995. By 2010, only 42 cases were reported, the health ministry said.
Azad said the country’s immunization campaign continues, and that any new case of polio would be declared a public health emergency.
The polio virus usually gains entry into the body via contaminated drinking water. Once a person is infected, the virus attacks the central nervous system and can cause paralysis, deformation and death.