The onset of AFP among children could happen between two and 12 years of age

Even though India has become a polio-free nation there should not be any slackening in surveillance aspect because the acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) of limbs, known in medical parlance as “Guillain-Barre syndrome” persists, according to S.Ramesh, professor and Head of the Department of Paediatrics, Rajah Muthiah Medical College and Hospital, Chidambaram.

Dr. Ramesh told The Hindu at the inauguration of the Silver Jubilee celebrations of the department on Thursday that this kind of paralysis had the ascending polyneuritis characteristics as it would gradually progress from the lower limbs to the upper body and when it reached the chest, prove fatal.

The onset of the AFP among children could happen between two and 12 years of age and this could be due to viral attack or trauma in the spinal chord. Dr Ramesh said Rajah Muthiah Medical College and Hospital, run by Annamalai University, was acting as a nodal centre for reporting such cases to the World Health Organisation.

The immunoglobulin that could arrest the flaccid paralysis were quite expensive as a single vial would cost about Rs. 9,000 and a child might require up to seven vials to get complete cure.

The Ekam Foundation supported by The Hindu was doing commendable service in enabling the economically weaker sections to get the immunoglobulin, Dr. Ramesh said. Surveillance Medical Officer (WHO) M. Ratnesh said that all over India as many as 60,000 AFP cases were reported and of them one case in West Bengal was confirmed to be a polio attack on January 13, 2011.

Ever since, no polio case was detected in the country and therefore, it had become polio-free. During 2009 there were 741 polio cases in India. Of the 55,000 AFP cases registered during 2010 in the country 72 cases were confirmed as polio cases.

Mr. Ratnesh further said that as far as Tamil Nadu was concerned, no polio cases were reported ever since 2004. He also noted that the WHO was working in coordination with the State and Central governments in this regard. Once the hospitals provide the statistics to the governments on the outbreak of any disease such as measles it would immediately organise a thorough screening in the affected areas and arrange for vaccination.

This was being done because many might not have the inclination to go to hospital for treatment. Therefore, though polio had disappeared from India constant surveillance was a must, Mr. Ratnesh said.