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Ministry wants polio vaccination check on visitors from 7 nations

The WHO classifies any country which remains polio free for a year as non-endemic.

Written by Abantika Ghosh | New Delhi |
September 5, 2013 2:51:49 am

With an eye on polio free status from the World Health Organisation next January,the Health Ministry wants travellers from seven countries — three where polio is endemic and four which have seen recent outbreaks because of virus importation — to undergo polio vaccination before entering India,much like some African nations demand yellow fever vaccination certificate at entry.

The Health Ministry has written to the External Affairs Ministry to make it mandatory for travellers from Kenya,Somalia,Israel,Ethipia,Nigeria,Afghanistan and Pakistan to get polio vaccines before travelling to India. The last three countries are polio endemic,an ignominous club that India managed to leave for the first time in January 2012 when it completed one year without any cases of wild polio infection,which is acquired from the environment and not a result of vaccination. The last polio case reported in India was that of a two-year-old in Howrah district of West Bengal.

Israel,Somalia,Ethiopia and Kenya had been polio free for some years but have seen recent outbreaks reportedly because the virus came in from across the border or through air travellers.

The WHO classifies any country which remains polio free for a year as non-endemic. To be certified as polio free that run has to continue for two more years. Any break and the calendar is set to zero once more.

“We are very close to completing three years without a fresh polio case that will finally make us polio free. It is a very crucial stage and we cannot afford to slip now. We have been very careful at the borders to check virus importation but after the recent outbreaks in the four countries there is a feeling that we need to be extra cauious. We have therefore written to the Ministry of External Affairs that travellers from these countries should have a mandatory vaccination certificate,” said Anuradha Gupta,Additional Secretary in the Health Ministry.

While the ministry is careful not to lower its guard for any reason,officials associated with polio control say smaller battles to make the country polio free have already been won. The two polio “hotbeds” of the country — western Uttar Pradesh and central Bihar — have been polio free for more than three years now. This means that in isolation they have already met the WHO criteria for eradicating the dreaded and debilitating viral disease. The last case in UP was in April 2010 while the last in Bihar was in January 2010.

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