Alert in Rajasthan as polio on the rise in Pakistan

Updated - November 16, 2021 07:14 pm IST

Published - October 08, 2014 02:48 am IST - JAIPUR:

With Pakistan reporting the highest number of polio cases in the past 15 years, India has stepped up surveillance along the international border, particularly in Rajasthan, to check any spread of the infection.

Jodhpur and Barmer districts are under heightened vigilance because of the Thar Link Express passing through here which ferries people between the two countries. More than 25,000 people have travelled in Thar link Express since 2006 when it was started after a gap of 41 years. It arrives at Bhagat ki Kothi station near Jodhpur every Friday and returns to Khokhrapar in Pakistan every Sunday.

While India was given the polio-free certificate by the World Health Organisation this February, Pakistan has recorded 202 polio cases this year — the highest in the world — accounting for 83 per cent of the cases reported globally until last week. Most of these cases have been reported from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). More than 70 per cent of the global cases are reported from within these provinces.

Other than Pakistan, neighbouring Afghanistan, and Nigeria, where polio is endemic, outbreaks have been reported from Syria, Somalia, Iraq and several African countries in the recent years. However, for India, the risk of transmission of this crippling and potentially deadly disease is more from Pakistan because of cross-border population movement — both legal and illegal.

High risk districts

“We are already administering polio drops to people who go to or come from Pakistan, irrespective of their age, as is mandated by the Centre for all international borders. But Jodhpur and Barmer are high risk districts because of the movement of people from across the border,” Narendra Saxena, Chief Medical and Health Officer of Jodhpur, told The Hindu .

It is in this context that only Jodhpur and Barmer have been identified by the Rajasthan government for the sub-national immunisation drive from November 16 to November 18 under the Pulse Polio campaign when lakhs of children would be given polio drops, Dr. Saxena said. There was illegal entry into the State but their mandate was to ensure that anyone entering the rail route was administered polio drops, he said.

India is maintaining high level of vigilance through surveillance for any import or circulation of the polio virus. All those travelling to high-risk and polio-endemic countries have to take drops from March 1 this year, which are provided through special booths set up at international borders with Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Myanmar. Special booths have been set up at Wagah border, Attari train station in Punjab and Munabao train station in Barmer.

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