Pulse Polio

Pulse Polio

Polio or poliomyelitis - External website that opens in a new window is an infectious disease caused by a virus that lives in the throat and intestinal tract. The term poliomyelitis comes from the Greek word poliós meaning "grey", myelós referencing the spinal cord, and -itis meaning inflammation. It is commonly spread through one person to another with the stool of an infected individual. It may also spread through oral and nasal secretions. Polio epidemics did not begin to spread until the end of the 19th century although evidence shows that polio existed in ancient times.

  Prevention and Cure
Prevention and Cure  

Polio usually begins with common symptoms such as fever, headache, nausea, fatigue, and muscle pains and spasms and is followed by a more serious and permanent paralysis in one or more limbs. More than half of all polio cases occur in children under the age of five. Between 5 and 10 per cent of infected persons display only the most general symptoms while more than 90 per cent show no sign of illness at all.

Polio vaccine is highly effective in producing immunity to the poliovirus and protection from paralytic polio. Approximately 90 per cent or more of polio vaccine recipients develop protective antibodies to all three poliovirus types after two doses, and at least 99 per cent are immune following three doses. Dr. Albert Sabin developed Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) - External website that opens in a new window in 1961. Presently, almost all countries use OPV to achieve polio eradication target. The vaccine not only prevents pernicious infection in the person, but it also precludes transmission of the wild poliovirus to other person. Since polio virus cannot survive outside a host for more than two weeks, theoretically it would be wiped out, resulting in the eradication of poliomyelitis.

For those who infected by the polio virus, there is no cure as such but there is treatment to alleviate the symptoms. Besides this, the affected persons can also be rehabilitated with the help of modern mobility aids. Heat and physical therapy can help to stimulate the muscles of infected persons and antispasmodic drugs are prescribed to relax the muscles. While this can improve mobility, it cannot reverse permanent polio paralysis.

Polio in India

India - External website that opens in a new window, along with all 192-member nations of the World Health Organization - External website that opens in a new window, committed to the goal of global polio eradication in 1988. Since 1995, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare - External website that opens in a new window has been conducting intensive immunization and surveillance activities to eliminate the polio virus. The National Rural Health Mission - External website that opens in a new window has been a boon to the efforts in rural areas. The National Polio Surveillance Project - External website that opens in a new window was launched in 1997 to provide technical and logistic assistance to the government, and now works closely with state governments and a broad array of partner agencies to achieve the goal of polio eradication in the country. The partnership is led by the government with support from the WHO, Rotary International - External website that opens in a new window, US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF - External website that opens in a new window. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - External website that opens in a new window is also one of the significant funding partners.

Polio: Fact Box
  • Cases in 2011 : 1 (Last case in 13th January 2011)
  • Cases in 2010 : 42
  • Cases in 2009 : 741
  • Cases in 1991 : 6,028
  • Cases in 1985 : 150,000

  Pulse Polio Immunization Campaign
Pulse Polio Immunization Campaign  

India launched the Pulse Polio Immunization (PPI) - External website that opens in a new window programme in 1995 as a result of the WHO Global Polio Eradication Initiative. Under this programme, all children under five years are given two doses of Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) in December and January every year until polio is eradicated. The campaign proved to be successful, and the incidence of poliomyelitis in India has decreased dramatically.

The PPI was initiated with an objective of achieving hundred per cent coverage under OPV. It aims to reach the unreached children through improved social mobilization, plan mop-up operations in areas where poliovirus has almost disappeared and maintain high level of morale among the public.

As recently as 2009, India had the highest burden of polio cases in the world (741), more than the three other endemic countries combined. Due to the extraordinary measures to reach children with vaccine, India has not seen a case since a 2-year-old girl in the state of West Bengal developed paralysis on 13 January 2011. Today, India has achieved a milestone in its fight against polio as it is no more an epicentre of polio. India has not registered a case of wild poliovirus nor detected the virus in sewage sampling since 13 January 2011.

This exceptional achievement is the result of energy, dedication and hard efforts by the Government along with millions of vaccinators, volunteers, community mobilisers, actors, social workers and religious leaders. The polio eradication effort is the most widely recognized brand in the country, with a Bollywood mega star as its public face.

  • One of the three types of wild poliovirus - wild poliovirus type 2 (WPV2) has been eradicated globally. The last case of WPV2 was in Aligarh, India, in October, 1999.
  • When the Pulse Polio Immunisation Programme was launched in India in 1995 an estimated 150,000 polio cases were reported across the country each year.
  • The two polio-endemic states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have not reported any case of polio since April 2010 and September 2010, respectively.
  • The transmission of the most dangerous WPV1, which caused 95 per cent of polio in India until 2006, dropped to record low levels in 2010. Uttar Pradesh, the epicenter of most polio outbreaks in the country, has not reported any WPV1 cases since November 2009.


The Disability Division - External website that opens in a new window of the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment - External website that opens in a new window facilitates empowerment of the persons with disabilities. India is also a signatory to the Declaration on the Full Participation and Equality of People with Disabilities in the Asia Pacific Region. It is actively participating in the Biwako Millennium Framework - External website that opens in a new window for action towards an inclusive, barrier free and rights based society. India has signed the UN Convention on Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities - External website that opens in a new window.

The passing of Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995 is a landmark in the history of social welfare planning to ensure equal opportunities and protection of rights and full participation of persons with disabilities in nation building.

  Polio affected countries
Polio affected countries  

Polio cases have decreased by over 99% since 1988, from an estimated 350 000 cases in more than 125 endemic countries then, to 1349 reported cases in 2010. In 2011, only parts of three countries in the world remain endemic for the disease - the smallest geographic area in history - and case numbers of wild poliovirus type 3 are down to lowest-ever levels.

Contemporary, polio remains endemic in three countries only - Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan - with a further four countries known to have (Angola, Chad and Democratic Republic of the Congo) or suspected of having (Sudan) re-established transmission of poliovirus. Several other countries had ongoing outbreaks in 2010 due to importations of poliovirus.


In 1988, the forty-first World Health Assembly, consisting of delegates from 166 member states, adopted a resolution for the worldwide eradication of polio. It marked the launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, spearheaded by WHO, Rotary International - External website that opens in a new window, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - External website that opens in a new window and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) - External website that opens in a new window.

This followed the certification of the eradication of smallpox in 1980, progress during the 1980s towards elimination of the poliovirus in the Americas, and Rotary International's commitment to raise funds to protect all children from the disease.

  Polio Free World
Polio Free World  

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) - External website that opens in a new window toils to ensure that no child will ever again suffer the crippling effects of polio. Since its establishment in 1988, the GPEI has achieved success in reducing the global incidence of polio by 99%.

  • The number of polio-endemic countries has now been reduced from 125 to just three Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.
  • Seven million people are walking today as a result of the effort to eradicate polio, and the vast majority of children in the world now live in polio-free areas.
  • Eradicating polio will result in estimated savings of $40 -50 billion, nearly all in developing countries.

Challenges Ahead

The year of 2011 witnessed a significant decline in the total number of polio cases world-wide (620 as of 3 January 2012), compared to 2010 and 2009. This decline is largely due to the reduction in the number and intensity of polio outbreaks in non-endemic countries and strong progress in India.

Polio is still a threat in a number of countries particularly in Pakistan. India aims to sustain its high quality efforts to prevent comeback of polio and ensure that all children are safe against this crippling disease. With admirable endeavours so far, India has established a strong network for prevention of polio and the same is being used to tackle other preventable diseases to support additional health services.


Please note that few of the links in the Archive section of the Spotlight may not work as the data could be of previous month, year and event.