India Fears Polio Virus Importation from Neighboring Countries

Arpita ChakraborthyBangalore,?June 12 2013:?India to make the polio vaccination activities more stringent and strict at the borders of the country. Fresh outbreaks in the horn of Africa from Polio endemic Nigeria have raised concerns of importation across the subcontinent. With Pakistan being a polio endemic country, Indian officials have become more cautious of polio virus importation from the neighboring countries-Pakistan and Afghanistan (both Polio endemic). While India has gone over two years without a case of Polio, it cannot be complacent until its borders are polio free too.

Very recently, few countries in Africa ? Kenya and Somalia - had reported new Polio cases which are being suspected to have happened due to virus importation through Nigeria, a currently affected country. This incident has raised an alarm in India since both Pakistan and Afghanistan are in the list of the currently affect countries. With WHO (World Health Organisation) suspending the special outreach program against Polio in Peshawar due to the latest brutal attack on female community workers, an alarm has been raised globally. ?It is imperative to address critical issues arising in Polio eradication campaign across countries. The chance of acquiring the polio virus from Pakistan and Afghanistan are acute. We have to take every precaution possible and ensure that there is no laxity in the campaigns??said Mr. Deepak Kapur, Chairman Rotary International?s India National PolioPlus Committee (INPPC).??Members of Rotary Muslim Ulema committee have offered to extend their service or even visit Pakistan and share their voice/reasoning to dispel myths and rumors against polio vaccination?,?Mr. Kapur added.

Both Pakistan and India share cultural, political and geographical similarities and therefore the people also have a similar mindset and a lot in common. Experts have observed that some lessons/good practices that have been successful in India have a fair chance of working well in Pakistan and could be emulated. ?We have taken various cues from India?s immunization campaigns both technical and social. Our team of Rotarians and officials have visited parts of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh to understand certain common indicators that will help us to enhance our outreach strategy and address the existing loop holes ?,?said Mr. Aziz Memon, Chairman, Rotary International?s Pakistan National PolioPlus Committee (PNPPC).??The approach followed especially in the minority communities of UP is fantastic and has worked wonders there. We are very positive that such examples would definitely help to reach the unreached and vulnerable children in our country too?, added?Mr. Memon.?

Addressing the Rotarians at a recently organized National Orientation and Planning Meet (NOPM),?Dr. Sunil Bahl-Deputy Project Manager, National Polio Survellience Project (NPSP) India, WHO said??Maintaining immunity and preventing importation is the first and foremost action step for India to maintain Polio Free status. It is a mandate in our project to provide continuous vaccination at the border crossing points?. ?Mapping the needs, we have established 5 vaccination posts along Indo-Pak border and 88 at Indo?Nepal since 2011. Likewise 2 posts have been established at Indo-Bangladesh and Indo-Myanmar borders each this year?. India is leaving no stone unturned to check any importation into its borders from the neighbouring countries and ensure it achieves the three-year target for regional Polio-free certification.

The goal of polio eradication is not specific to one particular country but it is a global urgency. The year 2018 has been set as a target by GPEI (Global Polio Eradication Initiative) to get rid of all types of Polio virus all across the world. The previously set targets have not been accomplished, but the world is preparing to finally get rid of the disease and help the three endemic countries to work towards the global polio eradication plan. As a result and tremendous efforts in Pakistan, number of polio cases?slumped drastically from 198 cases in 2011 to 58 in the year 2012 and only 10 cases this year. It is important for Pakistan to sustain the polio eradication efforts in order, for India and other countries in the sub continent to maintain a polio free status.

The number of polio patients is dwindling at a rapid pace? only 223 new cases were recorded last year worldwide. More encouragingly, only 19 new polio cases have been reported so far this year. It?s time to rid the world completely of this lethal disease, irrespective of the complicacies.

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