With India now officially polio-free since January 13, Uttar Pradesh, which shared the largest burden of polio cases in the country with 65 per cent, has now turned its focus on another disease which, too, occupies the top position (with 60 per cent) in the number of deaths resulting from it — measles.
The state Health and Family Welfare Department will target measles — an infection of the respiratory system — as the next disease to focus its immunisation drive on, which saw no case being reported from as back as April 2010.
Although no official data is available on measles, the last statistics showed that India reports 75 per cent of the total deaths caused by measles in the world. In 2008, measles killed around one lakh children in the country. UP sees the largest number of deaths of children due to this ailment each year, with 2006-07 recording 60,000 such deaths.
“While the next round of polio immunisation is scheduled for January 19 — National Immunisation Day 1 we are now focusing on the eradication of measles from the state. The Government of India has set 2020 as the target year and we will now work towards achieving this goal,” said Dr B S Arora, Director General, Family Welfare, Uttar Pradesh.
To achieve this, the health department has introduced second dosage of measles vaccine for children between 16 and 24 months old as per its routine immunisation drive in all the districts.
In the single dose of vaccine immunisation routine, children between 9 and 12 months old were attended to. However, as per the recommendations of the National Technical Group of Immunisation, a second dose of measles vaccine increases the immunity against the disease up to 95 per cent.
Besides this, the family welfare department has also started measles outbreak surveillance where each outbreak will have to be reported with samples of at least five suspected measles patients sent for confirmation. “Two suspected outbreaks have been reported so far — in in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts — in the last two months,” said a senior health official in charge of immunisation in the state.
Attention from polio, meanwhile, should not be taken away entirely, cautions Ashok Mahajan, former director of Rotary International and chairperson of Rotary International’s Muslim Ulama Committee, as “cases of polio may have ended in India, they haven’t in Pakistan and Nigeria”.
“We need constant vigilance and need to encourage and promote routine immunisation so that all preventable disease, and most importantly polio, is prevented,” he said.
The immunisation coverage for UP is still low at 64 per cent as of now.