Polio-free India gives neighbour tips to check the virus
Polio knows no borders. Even as Indian and Pakistani troops are involved in skirmishes along the Line of Control, health officials of the two countries are collaborating to tackle polio.
“Teams from Pakistan have been interacting with India to understand what we did right to make our country polio-free,” Anuradha Gupta, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, told reporters here.
Indian teams have also been travelling to Pakistan for offering technical assistance and working out strategies to eliminate the infectious viral disease that can cause paralysis. India has been offering technical support to Nigeria and Afghanistan also. Re-constructive surgery for the polio-afflicted is another area where countries are seeking Indian assistance.
For two years India has been polio-free, being described as unprecedented progress for a country which accounted for nearly half of the world’s polio cases till 2009. It was a major milestone for the country in 2012 when the World Health Organisation struck it off the list of polio-endemic countries. India has not reported any case after a two-year-old girl was paralysed in Howrah district of West Bengal on January 13, 2011.
“We are happy we did not falter. We had a false alarm on one occasion but it helped us test our preparedness. We were, in any case, planning a simulation exercise to test our preparedness when the case came to light,” said Ms. Gupta.
India is mindful of the persisting threat of importation due to proximity with Pakistan and Afghanistan. Though there has been a drop in the number of polio cases in Pakistan, the threat remains. “We cannot drop our guard. Polio immunisation has to continue as does routine immunisation,” she said.
That India has exported polio to countries near and far, such as Nepal, Tajikistan and Angola, puts it at risk of virus importation through the same route. Globally, since 2000, as many as 44 countries that had been polio-free have suffered from one or more importations of wild poliovirus.