The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fresh polio case

Burdwan, March 23: A fresh polio case has been detected at Katwa in Burdwan district, triggering fears that total success has again eluded the polio eradication drive in Bengal, which is regarded as one of the “reservoirs” of the disease in the country.

Suspecting that the girl might be carrying the virus, health workers had admitted the ailing four-year-old to hospital on January 28. The doctors sent her stool samples for test, which returned positive. Further tests by the polio detection centres at Delhi and Calcutta confirmed the positive result.

“We have asked the assistant chief medical officer to probe how the child got the disease and submit a report to me as soon as possible,” said Burdwan’s chief medical officer S.K. Sarengi. It will have to be ascertained whether the child was administered the oral polio vaccine during the pulse polio programmes, he said.

Sources in the health department admitted that during the pulse polio campaign in January this year, about 15,000 babies were not administered the dose.

“Fear and superstition forced the parents of many children not to turn up at the vaccination camps and the situation is particularly bad in areas like Katwa and Purbasthali of the district,” an official said. The scene is even worse in Murshidabad district.

A special drive was planned after so many “drop-outs” in the January campaign, but it has not yet been launched, the sources said.

“It is blind superstition that is working against the interests of the whole country. Many still believe that the vaccine might cripple or even make children to grow up to be infertile,” conceded Rabindranath Chatterjee, MLA from Katwa.

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