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The Rediff Special/ George Iype
Flying abroad? Keep polio certificate ready
September 25, 2006
Alarmed at reports about a spurt in polio -- the contagious and paralytic disease that strike children especially in India -- the World Health Organisation is considering asking the Indian government to issue an order whereby Indians traveling abroad will have to ensure that their children traveling with them are vaccinated against polio.
The order, if implemented, would mean that Indians travelling to other parts of the world with children below five years of age will have to get certificates from a doctor showing the status of the polio vaccine.
A WHO report last month said India had emerged as an exporter of the polio virus to polio-free countries. It specifically said: 'The outbreak of polio in western district of Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh is rapidly spreading and cases are confirmed in central Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Chandigarh and West Bengal.'
The report said Moradabad and its surrounding areas form the only place in the world that is actively exporting the polio virus to other countries -- polio originating from this area has recently been detected in a number of previously polio-free countries, including Namibia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh and Nepal.
In the wake of the WHO report, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh earlier this month asking his government to take immediate healthcare measure to contain the spread of polio cases in the country.
According to India's health ministry records, while there were only 66 cases of polio in 2005, in the last eight months this year, the disease had spread across eight states, with Uttar Pradesh and Bihar topping the list.
The latest figures say there are already 296 polio cases in India this year.
"We feel such a move could create a bad image for the country as a large number of Indians travel abroad these days," a health ministry official told rediff.com
Health ministry officials say one reason why the number of polio cases has risen alarmingly this year is because there was a "marginal increase in missed children during immunisation in late 2005." The ministry is now planning to carry special immunisation drives in October and November, especially in states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to contain the disease.
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