Cross-border terror has acquired a new meaning in Punjab. The state health authorities are afraid that visitors from Pakistan would bring in the polio virus, so they have decided to set up immunisation centres at the entry points. “We will give anti-polio doses to all children under 5 coming in from Pakistan through the Wagah land route and by Samjhauta Express at the Attari railway station,” state immunisation officer Dr Balwinder Singh said.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), India, Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan are the four countries that still have the virus, out of the 125 countries where the WHO started a polio immunisation drive in 1988. “The Punjab in Pakistan is in the high-risk zone of polio incidence,” said state WHO and National Polio Surveillance Project (NPSP) officer Dr Vikrant Prabhakar.
Punjab has seen eight cases since 2005, though there was none in 2010. “But we can’t take any chance. We will set up counters at the joint check-post. The railway station counter is already in place,” Dr Singh said.
At present, there are similar counters at different railway stations in the state, Ludhiana in particular, to immunise the kids of the large number of migrants who come in from UP, Bihar and Rajasthan among other states. “We have also located the illegal bus stands in Ludhiana and have plans to cover kids of domestic servants. Though no polio case was reported in 2010, we can’t go slow,” said district immunisation officer Dr KS Saini, adding, “And this is not only to save India or Punjab, but also to help eradicate the virus from our neighbouring territories.”