New Delhi: India runs a high risk of importing polio from its key neighbours Afghanistan and Pakistan which have a high polio burden, the government today said. “Yes. It is a fact that India’s two key neighbouring countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan, have high polio burden and as such it runs a high risk of importing the virus,” Health Minister J P Nadda informed the Rajya Sabha today.
He said that as per the World Health Organisation (WHO) data source, these are the only two countries worldwide that have persistent transmission due to wild polio virus in the year 2013-14 and remain “endemic”. As per figures given by the Minister, the total polio cases in Pakistan in 2015 (as on April 22) were 21 while in Afghanistan, it was one. In 2014, Pakistan had reported 306 cases while Afghanistan had reported 28 polio cases. Nadda said that India has extended a helping hand to these countries to form a united front to eradicate the disease.
“Both the countries have shown their positive response in the matter and as such have agreed to send their teams to visit India and adopt its model for eradicating polio,” Nadda said. He said that polio has been successfully eradicated from most of the SAARC nations includng India. However, it remains endemic in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“Until Polio virus transmission is interrupted in these countries, all countries remain at a risk of importation of polio especially India which shares border with Pakistan and has lots of Afghanistan nationals visiting India on a frequent basis,” Nadda said.
He said that India has already indicated its willingness through the Ministry of External Affairs to host technical missions from Pakistan and Afghanistan during national and sub-national immunisation days.