The Telangana government launched a special vaccination drive on Wednesday after an active strain of poliovirus was detected in a water sample in Hyderabad last month.
Health minister Dr C Lakshma Reddy said the virus — Vaccinated Derived Polio Virus Type-2 — was found in a sample collected from a drain near the Amberpet sewerage treatment plant on May 17 during routine tests by the medical and health department.
“There is no need to panic,” assured CK Mishra, additional secretary, health ministry, and mission director of National Health Mission. “India maintains its polio-free status as we have scanned the area and no polio case has been found.”
The health minister held an emergency meeting on Tuesday to review the situation.
“This is not the first time that a strain has been found but it is a vaccine-derived polio strain that is found commonly in children with low levels of immunity. They excrete it, which is why it is found in the sewage samples,” Mishra said.
Dr Reddy said the virus strain was detected in Delhi in October last year, besides in parts of Gujarat and Bihar.
However, as a precautionary measure, the health ministry has sent a team of specialists from Delhi to help the state conduct a special vaccination drive. “We have decided to conduct another round of IPV (inactivated polio vaccine) that will take about two-three days to get over. Look at the positive side, we have a robust surveillance system that is able to pick up the strains in time,” Mishra added.
Teams of the health department will inoculate around 300,000 children at the 12 locations in Hyderabad that are mostly likely to be affected the virus.
“The government will bear the entire cost of medicines and vaccines to be administered to the children in these areas. We are appealing to all parents to administer vaccines to their children in the age group of six weeks to three years,” Dr Reddy said.
The department is learnt to have imported 200,000 vaccines from Geneva, and is planning to rope in trained medical volunteers, anganwadi workers, community resource persons and NGO activists for the special drive.
The last case of polio in the country was reported on January 13, 2011, in West Bengal. The World Health Organisation certified India as polio-free in 2014, three years after no new case was reported from anywhere in the country, as is the protocol.
With inputs from New Delhi