New Delhi: Nearly 18,000 AFP (Acute Flaccid Paralysis) cases have been investigated between January and June 2015 as a part of the ongoing surveillance activities in India and the country is polio-free for more than 4 years.
This has been underscored by a Government of India, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare statement issued this evening. According to the official version, every year, approximately 50,000 Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) cases are picked up and investigated from across the country by the polio surveillance network. All AFP cases investigated in 2012, 2013 and 2014 have tested negative for poliovirus.
The Government of India statement is significant as it counters reports of the 208 cases reported from Bareilly in a section of the media while asserting that all AFP cases received from the laboratories in 2015 are negative for poliovirus.
Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has gone to brush aside reports while underscoring that India is polio-free. The country reported its last case of wild poliovirus in 2011. After three consecutive polio-free years, the South-East Asia Region of WHO, comprising of 11 countries (including India), was certified polio-free on 27 March 2014. Despite this progress, India has maintained a high vigil and ensured that no complacency sets in order to maintain the polio-free status for the last more than 4 years. It has taken appropriate actions to ensure high population immunity against polio as well as for maintaining a sensitive surveillance system for poliovirus detection.
Surveillance for polio in India has been set up as per global WHO guidelines according to which all cases of paralysis with sudden onset in children up to 15 years (which is called Acute Flaccid Paralysis or AFP) are reported and investigated by the polio surveillance network and their stool samples tested for poliovirus in WHO accredited laboratories. Surveillance for polio in India is considered among the best polio surveillance systems anywhere in the world and surpasses the globally recommended standards.
The AFP Surveillance system has been in place in India since 1997. While polio cases were detected in India through this surveillance system between 1997 and 2011, not a single AFP case has tested positive for polio since 13 January 2011.
The surveillance system for polio is being maintained in India even after polio-free certification to demonstrate that there is no polio in India and to pick up any importations of poliovirus, if they were to occur.
The India programme continues to protect children from the crippling disease by conducting two nationwide mass polio vaccination campaigns and three sub-national campaigns each year.
India has already conducted two nationwide and one sub-national campaign in 2015. The next sub-national campaign will begin on Sunday, 21 June 2015 and will cover Western UP including Bareilly. In addition, Bihar, Delhi and high risk population pockets in the states of Haryana, Punjab, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and West Bengal will also be covered.
Intensive efforts have been undertaken in India to improve routine immunization coverage that involves administering polio vaccines, in addition to other vaccines, to infants under the aegis of universal immunization programme (UIP).
Strong measures have been in operation in India to mitigate the risk of an importation and spread of the poliovirus from countries with continued circulation of poliovirus. More than 100 vaccination posts are functioning along the international borders of India with Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Bhutan to administer oral polio vaccine drops throughout the year to all children entering India through these borders. India has also made polio vaccination a mandatory requirement for travellers coming from and going to polio infected countries, including the recently infected ones.