High alert has been issued in Telangana after health officials detected an active strain of polio virus in samples of sewage water in Amberpet area in Hyderabad, prompting the state government to undertake a week-long special polio vaccination drive from June 20.
A total of 2.81 lakh children in the age group of six weeks to three years across 12 localities in Hyderabad Ranga Reddy districts would be given the vaccine against the deadly virus.
"There is no need to panic. As India was declared polio-free five years ago, tests are carried out regularly to ascertain if there are traces of polio virus in the environment," state health secretary Rajeshwar Tiwari said.
The state health department will set up over 750 vaccination centers in Hyderabad and another 122 in Ranga Reddy district to ensure that all children are covered during the vaccination drive.
“The laboratory tests conducted on samples of sewage water collected from Amberpet area in Hyderabad revealed the presence of virus. We have decided to take up a week-long vaccination drive in the city and in the adjoining Ranga Reddy district,” Tiwari said.
India was formally declared polio-free in March, 2014 and even received a certificate from the World Health Organisation the same year, though during 2014-15, four cases of VDPV (Vaccine Derived Polio Virus) were reported in four states. The last case of the crippling disease in the country was detected in West Bengal in 2011.
While cases of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) due to polio have decreased, cases of non-polio acute flaccid paralysis (NPAFP) have been on the rise. The latter is clinically similar to polio except that it is not caused from the polio virus.
Random tests of sewage water are conducted regularly since the disease has been eradicated in the country, and additional samples are being collected from other parts of the city to test if the virus has spread around. The samples will be first sent to Institute of Preventive Medicine (IPM) in Hyderabad and from there to WHO Laboratory in Mumbai for further tests, the officials said.
Apart from state government employees, volunteers from WHO, UNICEF and Rotary Club will also participate in the drive, the official said.
“It is possible the virus has been circulating in the sewerage for long. Amberpet area is now being monitored and additional samples have been collected for testing,” said Dr Amarender Reddy, Director of state-run Institute of Preventive Health.