Patna: The battle against polio is far from over in Bihar with seven new cases detected this year - an alarming jump in the infectious disease in a state that has vowed to eradicate it by 2007-end.
'It is sad to admit that seven new polio cases surfaced in the state till the first week of February, despite the immunisation drive,' officials in the health department said.
Of the seven cases, three were detected in Madhepura, two in Muzaffarpur and one each in Supaul and Rohtas districts. But unofficial sources put the figure at over 10.
In 2006, the state recorded 61 new cases from 25 of the 38 districts though eight rounds of immunization were conducted. Bihar saw the second highest number of polio cases in India after Uttar Pradesh in 2006.
The third statewide immunisation drive began Sunday with about 20 million children to be immunised. Officials have identified 27 high-risk districts where they will target children below the age of five.
The rise in polio is worrying after the 30 cases it recorded in 2005 - down from 39 in 2004. In 2003, it was 18 - a happy low compared to 121 in 2002.
Health experts say that poor sanitation and high population density are the key obstacles to eradicating the virus.
India's annual budget for 2006-07 to fight polio is over Rs.10 billion, but detection of new cases, especially in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, shows the country still has a long way to go to wipe out the disease.
According to a World Bank report, nearly 40 percent of Bihar's population lives below the poverty line and hundreds of thousands of poor people migrate to other states to earn a livelihood.
Poliomyelitis, often called polio or infantile paralysis, is an acute viral infectious disease spread from person-to-person via the faecal-oral route.
In recent years enhanced vaccination efforts have been led by world health bodies like WHO to eradicate polio globally, but the trends in Indian states like Bihar are disturbing.
Polio remains endemic in just four countries now - Nigeria, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.