New Delhi: To prevent the re-emergence of polio virus in India, the ministry of health and family welfare is now targeting mobile and migratory population from neighbouring countries such as Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The government has already started the process of identifying children living with mobile and migratory families to prevent the spread of the virus. So far, the government has been administering polio doses to children under five years through the door-to-door Pulse Polio campaign. The immunisation programme seeks to eliminate poliomyelitis (polio) in India.

“We are aggressively targeting the mobile and migratory children population in India. In Pulse Polio Campaign our workers were reaching out to children for immunisation. But for total population coverage, we cannot miss on homeless children. We have identified over 40,000 habitats so far in past six months," said Pradeep Haldar, deputy commissioner (immunisation), ministry of health and family welfare.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least 11 cases have been registered in 2018 in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Since, there is a possible movement of people from the countries to India, the Centre is continuing with the Pulse Polio campaign as a preventive measure despite being polio-free.

“We have prepared a database of children living near brick kilns, streets, tent houses and nomad families. We have a micro plan for polio. However, we have officially eradicated polio from India, but we have to run immunisation campaigns as a preventive measure, because, polio cases are still being reported from neighbouring countries such as Nepal, Afghanistan and Pakistan," he added.

Polio is a highly infectious viral disease, which primarily affects young children. The virus is transmitted through person-to-person and spreads through faecal-oral route or through contaminated water or food. It multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system and can cause paralysis. The last reported cases of wild polio in India were in West Bengal and Gujarat on 13 January 2011. On 27 March 2014, the WHO declared India a polio-free country, since no cases of wild polio had been reported for three consecutive years.

“We have already wiped out the disease, but if it comes back it will be very difficult to handle it. We have to ensure that the population develops immunity to this so we are including mobile and migratory children as well," said Haldar.

Currently, two types of vaccines--oral polio vaccine and injectable polio vaccine--are being used in India to provide enhanced protection. “The nation-wide polio campaigns should continue along with routine immunisation strengthening initiatives such as Mission Indradhanush, Gram Swaraj Abhiyan, and Extended-Gram Swaraj Abhiyan," said Preeti Sudan, health secretary, who chaired the 27th meeting of the Polio India Expert Advisory Group (IEAG) last month.

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