Uzbekistan will start mass immunisation against polio this month after an outbreak of the disease in neighbouring Tajikistan, officials in the Central Asian state said Monday.
The nationwide immunisation campaign funded by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UN's children fund UNICEF will aim to vaccinate 2.8 million children under the age of five, the country's deputy health minister said.
"Since Uzbekistan shares borders with both Tajikistan and Afghanistan, where outbreaks of polio have been registered, it is very important for us to prevent the virus from entering the country," Bakhtiyor Niyazmatov told reporters.
He rejected reports that new polio cases had already been registered in the country.
The mass vaccination is due to take place from May 17 to June 13.
Although ex-Soviet Uzbekistan was certified as polio free in 2002 alongside other countries in the region, it remains in a risk zone, WHO country representative Michel Tailhades said.
"First of all it is very important that all AFP (Acute Flaccid Paralysis) suspected cases should be investigated," he said.
Last month, the WHO issued a warning over the continued spread of the disease, with Tajik health authorities recording increasing cases of acute flaccid paralysis, the primary symptom of polio.
The resurgence of polio in Tajikistan, which had previously experienced its last case of the disease in 1997, highlighted a renewed spread of the disease in Asia.
India is one of the four remaining countries in the world where polio is endemic, along with Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.
Polio has spread again in recent years with imported cases, but so far mainly sourced from Africa, in a setback to global attempts to eradicate the crippling and sometimes lethal disease.