Sri Lankan visitors to Indian have been told to take the polio vaccine to avoid carrying back home the polio virus that has affected 376 Indians this year alone. This advisory has been issued by Sri Lankan High Commissioner to India C. Romesh Jayasinghe following the increase of polio cases in Bihar which is a favoured destination for Sri Lankan tourists for its Buddhist heritage.
"I have heard about it. Since there is a surge in polio cases in India in general and in Bodh Gaya in Bihar in particular, it is better to take precaution," Jayasinghe told IANS.
According to Sri Lanka's state-run Daily News, the government has asked those travelling to India to get the vaccine two weeks before their departure.
Quoting Maheepala Herath, the deputy director general of health services, the paper said this was necessary to avoid possible polio infection. The advisory applies to Sri Lankans of all age. Sri Lanka is polio free.
According to the Indian health ministry, the country has reported 367 polio cases this year -- 268 from Uttar Pradesh and 80 from Bihar.
What is alarming is that though India has reported fewer cases this year compared to last year, when there were 676 cases, the number of cases in Bihar has gone up significantly. Last year Bihar reported 67 cases but this year 80 cases have surfaced in the state so far . Last week four cases were reported from Bodh Gaya.
Moreover, Bihar's patients include 33 P1 virus cases - the virus that is most virulent and which spreads faster.
The Sri Lankan advisory has come at a time when Saudi Arabia has asked all Muslims going on Haj from India to take the polio vaccine and carry a certificate about their immunization.
Jayasinghe said the Sri Lankan government was yet to issue such a directive to Indian tourists visiting the island.
"I have not received any communication from my government on this issue. I have not received anything from the Indian health ministry either. But you don't know what is on its way in the coming week," he added.