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India new worries about polio

16th August 2007

India is to step up efforts to immunise children against polio in its eastern state of Bihar after fears that disruption caused by flooding may lead to them becoming more vulnerable to the disease.

World Health

Bihar has seen millions affected by the worst monsoon floods in years, yet it also has problems with cases of polio.

So far this year 20 cases of the virulent Type 1 polio have been reported leading Indian officials to announce they will make “extraordinary efforts� to immunise following the raised threat because of the flood disruption.

India, with 1.1 billion people, has the world's highest number of polio cases. So far in 2007, 139 have been reported out of a global total of 345.

The WHO fears that thousands of children living in crowded makeshift camps in the state of 90 million people could make transmission of the virus easier.

Hamid Jafari, head of WHO’s polio project in India, said: “In flood-hit areas, populations mix in unusual fashion which facilitates transmission of the polio virus. There are operational challenges in reaching children in flood-hit areas and going house-to-house to vaccinate them.�

A rise in cases in India, mainly in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, triggered concerns after the Indian strain of the virus re-infected other countries.

However, India says it has beaten back the Type 1 virus in the western parts of Uttar Pradesh, which is the world’s most affected region. No cases have been reported this year and it is anxious that progress there is not undermined by the flooding in neighbouring Bihar.

 

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