Another step towards polio-free Himachal

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Global Polio Eradication Initiative has reduced the global incidence of polio by more than 99% and the number of countries with endemic polio from 125 to 3. More than 10 million people are walking today who otherwise would have been paralyzed.

At the beginning of 2013, polio – a highly infectious viral disease that causes swift and irreversible paralysis – was a distant memory in most of the world.  The year 2012 ended with the fewest polio cases in the fewest countries ever; now is the best opportunity to finally put an end to this terrible, yet preventable, disease.

On 26 May 2012, the World Health Assembly declared ending polio a “programmatic emergency for global public health”. Noting India’s success using available tools and technology, the threat to the global community of ongoing polio virus transmission in the last three endemic countries – Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan – and the growing knowledge about and risk of circulating vaccine-derived polio viruses, which can cause outbreaks of paralytic disease, the World Health Assembly called on the World Health Organization Director-General to develop and finalize a comprehensive polio endgame strategy. The Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013-2018 was developed to capitalize on this new opportunity to end all polio disease.

The endemic countries are Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. Since India and Pakistan are neighbors and there is substantial movement of people across the borders, hence India is facing an increased threat. As the migrants have lower immunity so this group needs to be addressed on priority basis.

India was once recognized as the world’s epicenter of polio, with the intensity of transmission in India, many experts had predicted it would be the last country in the world to achieve eradication. The success of India has led to increased optimism in polio eradication.

A Special migrant round – Sub National Immunization Day will be organized in these areas of district Kangra i.e. Gangath/Indora, Fatehpur/Gopalpur Palampur/Shahpur and Dharamshala on 16th to 18th Jun 2013. A district task force chaired by DC Kangra has reviewed the preparations for the round, and teams are identified and being imparted training for the vaccinators. A bivalent vaccine which is more effective is being used for the first time. In this campaign, 35 teams will vaccinate 1165 children in these areas.

A workshop is being conducted at Dharamshala to further strengthen the campaign preparations on 12th July in which WHO consultant will re-train the doctors on nuances of the programme.

India is polio free since two years- last case was a 2-year-old girl in the state of West Bengal, on 13 January 2011. For certification of polio eradication – polio free status is to be maintained for 3 years. There remains no room for complacency. We must maintain sensitive surveillance and high childhood immunity against wild polio virus through high quality IPPI to guard against any importation of polio until eradication is achieved globally. As long as polio exists anywhere, it remains a threat everywhere.

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