India’s aggressive eradication of polio established the template for moving a disease from endemic to eliminated and has been lauded by the World Health Organization.
But in the process, a rise in the prevalence of another polio-like condition, acute flaccid paralysis, has been recorded.
Known as AFP, the condition is the sudden onset of muscle weakness or the inability to move limbs, and can be a tell-tale sign of polio, but is also a symptom of other diseases, including transverse myelitis, which causes injury to the spinal cord, Guillain Barre Syndrome, a nerve disorder, and Japanese Encephalitis, a mosquito-borne virus.
Since 1997, children in India who present with AFP are immediately tested for polio to comply with polio-eradication protocol and doing so has been one of the foundation stones for eradication.
Just this month, more than 200 young patients in the country’s most-populous state Uttar Pradesh, suffering from AFP were tested for polio. They didn’t have the virus, the federal Health Ministry said in a statement.
Such surveillance has resulted in a huge rise in reported cases of AFP.
In 2003, when polio was endemic in India, 8,500 cases of AFP were recorded. So far in 2015, a year after India was declared polio free, there have been nearly 18,000 reported instances but none linked to polio.
Often the cause of AFP remains unknown.