WHO sees eradication of P-1 polio virus from India by year-end (Lead)

May 24th, 2009 - 8:15 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, May 24 (IANS) India will be able to eradicate the lethal P-1 polio virus by the end of 2009, with the disease currently confined to parts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, a World Health Organisation (WHO) official said Sunday.
“India is topping the charts in eradication of the P-1 virus among the four countries - India, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan - still infected with the deadly virus in the world. We expect that the P-1 strain in India will be eradicated by the end of 2009,” Hamid Jafari, head of WHO’s National Polio Surveillance Project, told IANS.

He was speaking after the launch of a week-long polio immunization programme here that also saw US Charge d’Affaires Peter Burleigh administer polio drops to a small child.

There are two strains of the polio virus - P-1 and the milder P-3. WHO says it is in the final stages of eradicating the P-1 strain, of which fewer cases are being reported every year.

“In 2006, there were 648 cases of P-1 which reduced to 83 in 2007, which was quite a drastic fall. In 2008, only 75 cases of P-1 were reported while as of now (in 2009) 16 cases of P-1 have been reported across India,” Jafari said.

Another official explained this from a slightly different perspective.

“In the case of P-1, complete paralysis occurs in one out of every 200 cases. In the case of the P-3 virus, paralysis occurs in one in every 1,000 cases. Then, P-1 is far reaching, in that it can travel over long distances to different countries, whereas P-3 is not so far reaching as it is a localised virus.

“Hence, the focus is on eradicating the P-1 strain and alongside, suppressing the P-3 strain,” the official added.

Emphasising the need to focus on states still reporting polio cases, Jafari said: “In India polio has been eradicated from all states except Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Western Uttar Pradesh remains the epicenter of new cases. We have also identified 72 high risk blocks in Central Bihar around the banks of the Kosi and are reaching out to them,” Jafari added.

For one-and-a-half years from 2007, no cases of the P-1 strain were reported in Uttar Pradesh. The virus resurfaced at the end of 2008 due to endemic migration from Bihar, an official pointed out.

Speaking about his involvement in the polio eradication initiative, Burleigh said: “The message that I have for Indian parents is that it is your responsibility to make the child’s future. So, every parent should make it a point that their kids are vaccinated against this disease.”

According to Altaf Lal, the health attache at the US embassy, India was well on its way to eradicating the P-1 polio strain.

“It requires team effort, patience and time. It’s just that we had to deal with a difficult terrain in central Bihar but we’ve overcome that and are reaching out to the people. That’s the reason we’ve reached the last stage of the project,” Lal added

The United States is one of the largest supporters of polio eradication efforts in India and has provided over $170 million dollars in the past 10 years through WHO.

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