Bangladesh launches emergency polio vaccination drive
Bangladesh began immunizing 2 million children against polio on Sunday in an emergency vaccination drive in a southeastern region close to Myanmar, officials said.
The campaign follows confirmation that a polio-infected child from Myanmar had traveled to Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar for treatment in March.
“The children will receive a first round of vaccinations on Sunday and the concluding second round will take place on July 1,” a government health department official said.
The vaccination drive is taking place in Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban districts bordering Myanmar’s Rakhine (Arakan) state.
Records at two Bangladesh hospitals, one in Chittagong city and the other at Cox’s Bazar, revealed that Mohammad Sohel, aged two and a half, from Rakhine was treated there in March.
Chittagong doctors collected samples from the boy and sent them to the Dhaka-based National Polio Laboratory.
By the time the laboratory had confirmed the disease, the boy’s guardians had transferred him to the Cox’s Bazar hospital and then had him released and taken back to Myanmar.
Fearing that the boy might have spread the virus during his stay, Bangladeshi health officials ordered the emergency vaccination drive in addition to an ongoing national campaign begun last year.
Myanmar too began a vaccination campaign last week after two polio-infected children were detected in a township in western Rakhine, near the Bangladesh border.
It was not immediately clear whether one of the two children was Sohel.
Polio mainly affects children under five and can cause paralysis in a matter of hours.
While the disease itself is incurable, multiple vaccines can protect a healthy child against polio for life, health officials say.
Bangladesh and Myanmar declared themselves free of the disease in 2000. But Dhaka sounded alarm bells in 2006, starting a nationwide campaign to immunize all of the country’s 24 million children after 17 cases of Type 1 wild polio virus were detected in border areas.
The World Health Organization has called for a new drive to stamp out polio, which still infects about 2,000 people, mainly children, a year worldwide.
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