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Rare poliovirus strain found - Child infected in Dibrugarh district

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By Staff Reporter in Dibrugarh
  • Published 9.06.09

Dibrugarh, June 9: A case of rare polio has been detected in a four-and-a-half-year-old boy in Upper Assam’s Dibrugarh district.

Health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told The Telegraph that the case had been confirmed as vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV). He said it was a “very, very rare case” and had been reported for the first time in India.

“The victim initially underwent polio vaccination. Unicef is looking after the case,” he added.

The family members of the boy, Manab Dehingia, claimed that he had been administered as many as 20 doses of polio drops since birth. Manab is a resident of Miripathar under Lahowal police station in Dibrugarh district.

A vaccine-derived poliovirus is a rare strain, genetically changed from the one contained in oral polio vaccine. The oral polio vaccine contains a weakened version of poliovirus that activates an immune response in the body and prevents the infectious viral disease from affecting the central nervous system and causing paralysis. In very rare instances, the virus in the vaccine can mutate into a form that can paralyse and has the capacity for sustained circulation.

The case has surfaced at a time when almost every developing nation, including India, is concentrating on the eradication of the disease and has adopted the pulse polio immunisation programme governed by the World Health Organisation.

Confirming the case, WHO sources said the boy first reported some weakness followed by severe headaches. Finally, his entire left side was paralysed on April 7 this year.

“Two stool samples of the boy was sent to the Calcutta-based Institute of Serology for examination. One of the samples has tested positive. Samples have also been sent to the Mumbai-based Entero-virus Research Centre for genetic analysis to trace the origin of the virus,” one of the sources said.

P.C. Hazarika, the joint director of health services, Dibrugarh, said they were awaiting reports from Calcutta and Mumbai. “In the meantime, we have begun our epidemiological investigation and specialised teams of doctors are already on the job.”

Last year, a case of the deadly poliovirus was detected in Morigaon district in central Assam, after which a special statewide drive was carried out by the state health department.

What has set the alarm bells ringing this time is the fact that the child got infected by the virus despite being administered as many as 20 drops of polio as claimed by his family.

“The condition of the child has improved and he is now limping. Our major concern now is whether the virus will circulate in the community. A team of WHO experts from Delhi will arrive here on Thursday to conduct a special investigation. After that, another team of experts will come from the WHO headquarters in Geneva for a detailed epidemiological investigation. WHO has taken the case very seriously,” the source said.

Experts at the Assam Medical College and Hospital have also examined Manab. Narayan Upadhaya, a professor and the head of the department of neurology, who performed a CT scan upon the child on Monday, said he had asked for some clinical tests.

“As of now, nothing can be said properly. The CT scan report reveals some sort of measles in the child’s brain. Therefore, we have decided to go for some clinical tests,” he added.