New Delhi (ISJ): After the victory over polio, India has put in place a regime, which mandates travellers from seven polio-affected nations including Pakistan to take Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) six weeks before departure from their country. The regime, which took effect on March 01, 2014, applies to travellers to and from Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Syria, Kenya, Somalia, Nigeria and Pakistan.
"Years of efforts and huge financial resources have been invested by India for stopping polio in India. We cannot risk importation of poliovirus, which is getting bigger and bigger with the recent outbreaks in the Middle East and earlier in the horn of Africa region," said Ms Anuradha Gupta, Additional Secretary in the Health and Family Welfare ministry.
With the World Health Organisation declaring India polio-free earlier in March, the risk of wild poliovirus persists as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria continue to be polio-endemic. In view of this, the Independent Monitoring Board of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative recommended the International Health Regulations (IHR) should be used to ensure all people travelling from polio-endemic country are required to have vaccination prior to travel and this should be extended to any persistently affected country.
According to WHO guidelines, the risk of introduction of poliovirus in polio-free areas through travellers remains, until it is eradicated globally.
"World Health Organization supports the Government of India initiative for making polio immunization a requirement for travellers from and to the polio-affected countries. This is also in line with the recommendation of the Independent Monitoring Board of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative," said WHO Representative to India, Dr Nata Menabde.
India has put in place surveillance mechanism to detect any untoward importation of the poliovirus into the country. It has also declared that any case of poliovirus would be treated as an emergency and rolled out 200 trained Rapid Response Team for emergency response.
India has also set up continuous polio immunisation posts along the international borders with Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Bhutan. There are 102 such posts across these borders, immunizing nearly 4.2 million children during the last two years.