Saturday, February 19, 2011

New case of polio leads to immunization drive in West Bengal, India

In response to a new case of polio found in an 18-month-old girl in West Bengal, the state of West Bengal issued a immunization campaign in five districts. The drive lasted from February 13th-15th, and aimed to administer vaccination to 1.8 million children in the five districts with the help of WHO and the National Polio Surveillance Project (NPSP).

As we've discussed in class, the polio vaccination used is India is Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV or "Sabin" as we call it). It is the live-attenuated form of the vaccine and is often the vaccine of choice in developing countries because it is cheap and easy to administer. However, as we (and Yu-Jin!) know, OPV has the potential to revert back into a wild-type, harmful strain, which is of particular concern because people shed the virus into the environment after being vaccinated.

The girl noted previously was suffering from polio caused by poliovirus type 1, the most harmful strain of polio. The officials found that her strain came from Delhi, a region in which her father had visited in the past few years. No further details are given, but it seems that perhaps her father had a subclinical infection (as only 1% of people infected with polio virus actual shown the syndromes associated with polio). 

Also important to note is that NPSP claimed that it had not been possible to perform polio immunization in this region for "various reasons". The article does not elaborate, but it seems reasonable that many of the factors we discussed in class, such as poverty, lack of infrastructure, civil unrest, and campaigns of misinformation and disinformation, may have contributed to this. It is also unclear why it seems possible to perform immunization now. What is clear is that the fight to eradicate polio continues to be complicated in at least one of the four regions remaining.


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