While India gears up to receive WHO certification, Pakistan is polio endemic with 59 cases reported this year, say delegates at a brainstorming Polio Plus orientation and planning workshop in Madurai.

India is all set to be officially certified polio-free by World Health Organisation (WHO) in about 60 days from now, on January 14 to be precise. Experts are focusing on the end-game strategy.

Even as India gears up to receive the WHO certification, neighbour Pakistan is still polio endemic with already 59 cases reported from there this year. Amid fears that the polio virus may cross borders, an alert message has been sent out by the Rotary International’s India National Polio Plus Committee that “it is not over until it is over.”

At a brainstorming Polio Plus orientation and planning workshop conducted in Madurai on Sunday, public health officials, polio surveillance officers and Rotary Club members of Rotary International District 3000 sensitised the delegates on why Pakistan remained a potential threat even though India had no polio case since January 13, 2011. The last case was reported from Howrah district in West Bengal. “India is not a polio-endemic country any more, but since we share a long border with Pakistan, there are chances that the virus may cross the border. Routine immunisation of our children is the only way out,” Patibantla Sambasiva Rao, Member, India National Polio Plus Committee, cautioned.

He cited a reason. Recently, Syria had a polio case and the virus was traced to Pakistan. “Since the wild polio virus has travelled from Pakistan to far away Syria, India is very much susceptible. Polio virus anywhere in the world is a threat to children everywhere in the world,” he pointed out.

R. Theenachandran, District Governor Nominee (2015-16), R.I. District 3000, said the Rotary clubs world over had been raising funds to fight polio. The Rotarians contributed Rs.6,000 crore for anti-polio drive across the world of which Rs.880 crore came to India.

N. Iyyanar, Joint Director (Immunisation), Directorate of Public Health-Chennai, said no polio case had been reported in Tamil Nadu in the past nine years. The last polio case was reported from Tenkasi in Tirunelveli district in February 2004. “In Chennai, our focus is on 250 sites where construction workers from other States are living. Special immunisation camps are being conducted to cover children there,” he added. Appealing to Rotary Clubs to adopt primary health centres for polio immunisation drive, Dr.Iyyanar said the State government has been doing outreach immunisation every Wednesday.

A.P. Ramaraj, chairman, District Polio Plus Committee of Rotary district, said children should be aware of polio and how it was eradicated. “Polio booths at international borders are a must. India is cautious as it has five booths along the Pakistan border, 88 along Nepal border, two on the border with Bangladesh and one on Myanmar border. Children are being immunised with polio vaccine. International flights coming from these regions have to be careful,” Mr.Ramaraj advised.

Mr. Rao said only three countries — Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan — were polio endemic. As of November 15, globally 334 polio cases had been reported. It was 223 last year. Countries such as Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Cameroon and Syria which had no polio incidence in the year 2012 had polio cases this year. Somalia, with 180 polio cases, was sending disturbing signals. Egypt, Israel and Gaza Strip had come under the scanner, he added. Polio virus moved from Nigeria to bordering country Chad and onto Cameroon.

Dr.Santhosh Rajagopal, Surveillance Medical Officer, WHO, made a presentation on endgame strategy for complete eradication of polio from India.

“By 2018, we will be withdrawing oral polio vaccine in a phased manner and injectable polio vaccine would be introduced in India. There is a timetable to follow from 2013 to 2018,” he said. National Immunisation Days would be observed for two more years to cover oral vaccine to children up to five years of age.

According to District Revenue Officer Chitrarasu, the authorities are focusing on conducting special rehabilitation camps for the differently abled and physically challenged people.

From the Rotary side, a special team, including district coordinator G.Vasudevan and R. Raja Govindasamy, were leading a campaign to give the final punch to polio virus with a slogan ‘End Polio Now.’

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