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India marks 3 years without polio

NEW DELHI — India marked three years Monday since its last reported polio case, putting the country on course to being formally declared free of the disease later this year. India has made great strides against polio in recent years through a rigorous vaccination campaign.

But for many in India, where polio victims with withered, twisted limbs are a common sight, these advances have come too late.

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‘‘My parents were very poor and couldn’t afford medical treatment for me,’’ said Sonu Kumar, 24, who contracted the disease when he was 10. Paralyzed from the waist down, he begs outside a temple in central Delhi and uses a wheelchair.

Polio, which can be prevented through a vaccine, has been eradicated in most countries. But it still causes paralysis or death in some parts of the world, including Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

Polio usually infects children under age 5 when they drink contaminated water. The virus attacks the central nervous system, causing paralysis, muscular atrophy, deformation and, in some cases, death.

Monday’s milestone was significant, but the World Health Organization still needs to confirm there are no undetected cases before making the official declaration that India is polio-free in March.

Still, Junior Home Minister R.P.N. Singh sent a triumphant message on Twitter: ‘‘Proud day for all of us as Indians . . . India is polio free for three years.’’

The last case of polio was reported in eastern India in 2011.

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