SHAHPARA, India — The scourge of polio ends in India with a lively 4-year-old girl, Rukhsar Khatoon, who became ill as a baby after her parents forgot to get her vaccinated.
Her barely perceptible limp the only lingering sign of the disease, Rukhsar was the last person to contract polio in the nation of 1.2 billion people.
The World Health Organization formally declared India polio-free on Thursday, after three years with no new cases. It said the milestone means the entire Southeast Asian region, home to a quarter of the world’s population, is considered free of the disease.
Being declared polio-free once was considered all but impossible in a nation hobbled by corruption, poor sanitation, and profound poverty.
Polio is a vaccine-preventable disease that has been eradicated in most countries. But it still causes paralysis or death in some parts of the world, including Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.