In a worrying development, Jammu and Kashmir has reported its first case of polio after remaining free of the crippling disease for two years even as 14 cases were detected across India in December-end.
With the new cases, the number of children afflicted with the disease touched 624 in 2006 - a very high number compared to the 66 reported in 2005.
"It was the first case of polio from Jammu and Kashmir. In the last week of December we detected the case in a five-year-old baby girl in Jammu," said a top official of the National Polio Project who declined to be named.
"The recent surge in the cases in north India is a cause of worry. The first case from Jammu is a clear indication that the polio strain is constantly covering new grounds," the official told IANS.
He said since both Pakistan and India have polio cases, the border state might see more infections.
"India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the major source of polio cases across the globe. And looking at the geographical positioning of Jammu and Kashmir, the state has to stay alert on this field," he said, adding that the immunization drive was quite satisfactory in the state.
The National Polio Project is a joint collaboration of India and the World Health Organisation, set up with the aim to keep a tab on the polio scenario in the country.
"Of the 14 new cases, eight were from Uttar Pradesh, two each from Haryana and Bihar and one each from Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir," the official added.
Of the 624 cases reported in 2006, Uttar Pradesh accounted for 509 and Bihar 52 cases. The last case was reported from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh Dec 27.
"The rise in the polio cases was seen especially in minority-dominated western Uttar Pradesh. The dense population and poor hygienic conditions in several districts are contributing heavily to the spread of the disease."
Health authorities said there was some lapse in the immunisation drive in 2005, which resulted in the resurgence of the disease last year.
However, they argue that the renewed zest shown in the immunisation drive would yield results soon. "We hope see a reduction in the number of fresh cases within the next couple of months."
Besides Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, cases reported from other states in 2006 include Haryana (18), Uttaranchal (13), Punjab (8), Delhi (6), Maharashtra (5), Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh (3 each). Assam has reported two cases.
One case each was reported from Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Jammu and Kashmir.
In December, the capital reported its sixth case from a slum cluster in Rohini. The strain was detected in an eight-month-old boy.