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East Asia expects free from polio in 2014: WHO

Updated: 2012-09-06 14:24
( Xinhua)

JAKARTA - Countries in East Asian region are forecast to be free from polio disease by early 2014, a WHO top official said here Thursday.

Eleven countries in Southeast Asia are now on track to declaring the region polio free, said Dr Margaret Chan, WHO director general, while addressing the organization's  regional committee meeting in Yogyakarta province.

"This is a magnificent achievement, we must now eradicate polio globally," she was quoted by Antara news wire as saying.

The director said the last case of wild polio virus in the region was reported on Jan 13, 2011 in India, making the region polio free possible in early 2014.

"However, the region remains at risk with polio virus circulating in the endemic countries -- Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan," she added.

Although no polio cases have been reported in the region for 20 months, Dr Chan said now is time for maximum vigil, high levels of preparedness, high quality surveillance and maintenance of high immunity against polio among all children under five years old.

"The recent outbreaks in Asia-Tajikistan in 2010 and China in 2011 have provided important lessons in maintaining high population immunity as protection against importations," she said.

The director added that medical officers from India, Bangladesh and Nepal are  assisting countries that are still battling the wild virus.

Meanwhile, Samlee Plianbangchan, regional director of WHO Southeast Asia, stressed that countries in the region need to intensify routine immunization, including polio immunization, and look for polio immunity gaps and conduct supplementary immunization campaigns when necessary to improve immunity levels.

"This surveillance must be both on national and on sub-national levels, WHO is working with countries to ensure the region sustains the gains made on polio eradication and achieves the regional polio-free certification in early 2014," he said.