India, Nepal, Bangladesh join hands against polio

March 27th, 2008 - 6:28 pm ICT by admin  

By Prashant K. Nanda
New Delhi, March 27 (IANS) India, which has the highest incidence of polio in the world, has teamed up with neighbouring Nepal and Bangladesh to control the spread of the disease across their porous borders. “We are strengthening our cross-border coordination with Nepal and Bangladesh to contain the disease,” said Hamid Jafari, project manager of the National Polio Surveillance Project (NPSP).

“Polio in India is a threat to countries across the globe. Polio anywhere is a global threat.”

“We have noticed five cases of the P3 polio virus in Nepal in the recent past and these cases were imported from polio prevalent Bihar (in India),” Jafari told IANS.

So far this year, 150 cases of polio have been detected in India, of which 127 were from Bihar, 20 from Uttar Pradesh and one each from Haryana, Delhi and Maharashtra.

NPSP is a joint effort by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Indian health ministry to eliminate polio in India. It draws strategies to wipe out the disease and maintains prevalence data.

Jafari said that WHO’s regional offices in the three neighbouring countries were holding regular meetings and medical officers in border areas were being trained for the polio eradication drive.

“We have been putting up special camps at crossing points on the India-Nepal border. Uttar Pradesh and Bihar contribute 95 percent of polio cases in India and are very close to Nepal geographically,” he said.

Hence, a synchronised effort was necessary to stop the spread of the disease across the border, he explained.

“Security personnel and medical officers of border areas are aware of the local situation and know about the campaign. A joint effort by the border districts is feasible and effective from both the human resource mobilisation and logistical resource point of view,” he said.

Officials administer oral polio vaccine to the floating population on the border areas and keep an eye on the movement of any polio-infected individuals.

Jafari said that in 2005, Type 1 poliovirus strains found in western Uttar Pradesh were traced in Angola and Congo.

In 2007, India recorded 866 cases of polio as against 676 in 2006 and just 66 cases the previous year. Of the 866 cases, 495 were from Bihar and 339 from Uttar Pradesh.

Jafari said that India has started helping Nepal in dissecting the gene sequence of polioviruses found there.

“The Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) Entrovirus Research Centre in Mumbai has started receiving cases from Nepal. Earlier, Nepal used to send cases for gene sequencing to a laboratory in Bangkok,” he said.

Nepal carried out a round of immunisation across 20 districts bordering India March 15 and 16. The next round of the polio drive in the Indo-Nepal border districts is scheduled for April 26 and 27.

Jafari however said that India was doing a “very good job” to end the polio menace and a concerted immunisation drive had led to a drastic fall in the number of P1 cases.

The P1 (poliovirus 1) strain is considered the most virulent strain that spreads faster and paralyses children five times more than the P3 strains. The P2 strain has been wiped out of the world.

Polio, medically known as poliomyelitis, is an acute viral infectious disease spread from person to person. Its peak transmission occurs in summer and autumn and the virus mainly paralyses the legs and spinal cords.

India has been carrying out polio immunisation drives to eliminate the disease. In every round, health activists administer oral polio drops to children below five years of age.

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