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Times of India
25 March 2011
Kolkata, India

‘Bengal a Challenge in Polio Eradication’
India could be just a few steps away from eradicating polio. The number of polio cases dropped from 741 in 2009 to a 42 in 2010, a decline of 95%. The country has recorded one polio case so far in 2011. And the case has been reported from Howrah in West Bengal. Therefore, Bengal is one of the few states where thrust is being given on polio surveillance.

"West Bengal had eight polio cases in 2010. And the first and only polio case in the country in 2011 is from the state. This is a setback to our initiative for polio eradication. We have identified 222 areas under various municipalities and gram panchayats across nine districts, including areas under two boroughs in Kolkata, as vulnerable. We urge the media to respond to the need of the hour and play a stakeholder’s role in eradicating polio," Manabendra Nath Roy, additional chief secretary, said on Wednesday during a media meet on polio eradication in West Bengal.

West Bengal is one of the polio endemic states. The only polio case in the country in 2011 was reported on January 13 from Howrah’s Panchala block with an 18–month–old girl found infected by P1 virus, a strain known to cause massive outbreak. P1 is found in sewerage of Delhi. High density of population, migration, poor sanitation and resistance to vaccine have been cited as challenges.

"Resistance has been a big challenge during immunisation with about 5000 families in Howrah resisting. Every child in the country needs to be immunised in order to eradicate polio," said Lori Calvo, Unicef chief of the field office in West Bengal. Unicef is a partner of West Bengal government in polio surveillance. Other partners are Who’s National Polio Surveillance Project (NPSP) and Rotary International. The next round of week–long immunisation programme kicks off on March 27.

Out of the 42 polio cases reported in 2010 across India, seven were from Murshidabad while one was from Birbhum. The new case from Howrah has made West Bengal the only state with continuing transmission of the virus. Therefore the state government has taken up all steps to intensify the immunisation drive.

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