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'Indians may be spreading polio'

It is suspected that Indians travelling abroad are spreading polio, a senior UNICEF official said on Sunday.

india Updated: Sep 10, 2006 19:43 IST

India is among the countries with the highest number of polio cases and it is suspected that Indians travelling abroad are spreading the disease, a senior UNICEF official said on Sunday.

"Investigation of strains of the polio virus and their genetic sequencing carried out in the African countries of Congo and Mozambique has revealed that they are of Indian origin," Buren Bayar, the UNICEF Polio Coordinator for Uttar Pradesh said.

About 280 cases have been reported in the country this year, with Uttar Pradesh leading the list with 254. The state had reported only 29 cases last year.

"It may be possible that people going for Haj pilgrimage from the country could have transmitted the polio virus to people of other countries," Bayar said.

Noting that India as a whole was not responsible for the spread of the disease in other parts of the world, Bayar said Uttar Pradesh was largely responsible for this trend.

"The state of Uttar Pradesh specifically is turning out to be the exporter of the disease," he said adding cases of polio reported in Bangladesh were also of Indian origin.

Refuting Uttar Pradesh government's argument that vaccination was not an effective method to control polio, he said, "The vaccines are safe. They were tested in May and June this year at Kasauli in Himachal Pradesh and were found to be safe and effective."

Bayar was, however, optimistic about the eradication of polio from the country but stressed the need to reach out to every child. "When Bangladesh can do it, why can't India?" he asked.

First Published: Sep 10, 2006 19:43 IST