To keep away the polio virus from Indian soil, travellers to and from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Syria, Kenya, Somalia and Nigeria will have to take oral polio vaccination six weeks prior to the travel.
Health Ministry has made the new travel rule mandatory from March 1. By March-end, India is expected to be declared as "polio-free" by the World Health Organisation. Not a single polio case has been reported in India in past three years.
AdvertisementAs per WHO reports, only Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan remain polio-endemic as of 2013. As two of these countries are India's neighbours, India took this step to keep away the threat of re-infection from travellers.
"Years of efforts and huge financial resources have been invested by India for stopping polio in India. We cannot risk importation of polio virus, which is getting bigger and bigger with the recent outbreaks in the Middle East and earlier in the horn of Africa region. This new preventive measure has been initiated as per the recommendations of the national and international expert bodies and the guidelines of the WHO" said Anuradha Gupta, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
India has set up posts for polio immunisation along the borders with Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Bhutan. This year 102 posts were put up, with around 4.2 million children being immunised in the past two years.
According to the United Nations, millions of children in the Middle East will be vaccinated against polio this month after virus was found again in Syria. Even Afghanistan launched its polio vaccination drive last month.