The Times of India
NEW DELHI: India has exported a polio virus to Tajikistan, re-infecting the region for the first time since it was certified polio-free in 2002.
In what is the first outbreak of the crippling disease in a Central Asian country, the virus till April 22 had caused acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) in 128 children in Tajikistan.
“Lab tests have till now confirmed that 32 children in the country have been paralysed by polio,” WHO said.
According to the latest report of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, “Genetic sequencing of the isolated virus shows the polio virus is most closely related to virus from Uttar Pradesh in India.”
This importation of the virus, that till now was circulating only in a handful of countries like India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, has triggered off a massive polio containment campaign in the region.
Tajikistan is launching an outbreak response vaccination activity from May 1 for which four million doses of the oral polio vaccine have arrived in the country.
Countries neighbouring Tajikistan have also lined up protective measures. Uzbekistan is planning to vaccinate its children under five years of age starting in the last week of May. Kyrgyzstan is conducting polio vaccinations as part of European Immunization Week. Afghanistan has stepped up surveillance along its border with Tajikistan.
WHO says, “As of April 22, 128 AFP cases have been reported and 10 children have died. All cases are in the south-west of the country, in an area bordering Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.”
Tajikistan’s last case of clinically confirmed polio was in 1997. Reported vaccination coverage nationwide was 87% in 2008, which is the last year for which complete data are available to WHO.
The polio virus travels long distances easily and polio-free regions will continue to be at risk until polio virus transmission is stopped in the remaining endemic countries.
WHO says that this outbreak demonstrates the need to maintain high population immunity until transmission of polio has been interrupted worldwide.