Any new polio case to be public health emergency: Azad

New Delhi: With India reporting no polio cases last year, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad Saturday said there will be zero tolerance for any new case and any case will be declared a public health emergency.

Speaking at the launch of the National Pulse Polio Programme for 2012 by President Pratibha Patil, the health minister said that India is making history in its fight against polio.

"It is indeed a remarkable achievement that for the last one year, the country has remained completely free from polio without witnessing even a single case," he said.

Noting India had a rather large share of global polio cases, he said that only two years ago, the country accounted for half of the total polio cases in the world.

"Seen against this back drop, today`s achievement of one full year of zero polio case is extremely impressive," he said.

Azad said that his ministry has taken major steps to reach virtually every child in the country, even in the remotest and hardest to reach areas and making sure, that mobile and migratory populations are also not left uncovered.

"The coverage of children even in the most endemic states such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh has crossed 99 percent. This level of coverage is unprecedented, not witnessed anywhere in the world, he said.

Highlighting the risks that persist not only on account of indigenous transmission but also importations from other endemic countries, Azad said: "We have therefore put in place an emergency preparedness and response plan, which we are committed to implementing in all states across the country."

"Under this plan, there is going to be zero tolerance for any new polio case and any such case will be declared as a public health emergency," he stated.

All the states bordering the neighbouring countries have been alerted to strengthen surveillance for early detection of any imported polio case, he said.

Special booths have been established in the bordering areas like Wagah border post and Attari train station in Punjab and Munabao train station in Barmer district of Rajasthan, to ensure, that all children under five years of age coming from across the border are given polio drops.

The Nationwide Immunization campaign for Polio will start Sunday in which more than 17 crore children of less than 5 years of age will be given polio drops.