KOLKATA: The 17-month-old Baruipur baby suspected to be afflicted with polio has received 17 polio immunization drops, according to WHO investigators. It makes her chances of contracting the disease extremely remote, though it can't be ruled out till her stool sample analysis reports arrive in three weeks' time. But the good news is that Sumi, the girl, is steadily regaining strength in her leg muscles and has been moving about 'quite normally' since Tuesday, WHO representatives revealed.
"The baby has received 13 polio vaccine drops and four pulse polio drops which make her reasonably safe. But it's still too early to conclude that she does not have polio. We are waiting for the reports," said Dipankar Mukherjee, regional team leader, WHO.
Polio may have been eradicated from the state but health facilities and living conditions in West Bengal kept it on the brink. Thousands of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) cases - which could be caused by polio or other viruses - are reported from the state every year. It was a worry since monitoring and vigilance were poor and the possibility of polio sneaking back could not be ruled out, admitted health officials.
Around 300 AFP cases have already been reported in West Bengal this year. The figure was around 2500 in 2011.
A clinical manifestation characterized by weakness or paralysis and reduced muscle tone, AFP is generally caused by a viral attack or by trauma affecting the nerves associated with the involved muscles. For example, if the somatic nerves to a skeletal muscle are severed, then the muscle will exhibit flaccid paralysis. When muscles enter this state, they become limp and cannot contract. This condition could turn fatal if it affects the respiratory muscles, posing the threat of suffocation. AFP is the most common symptom of a polio attack which has led to concerns after the Baruipur case came to light. It could also be caused by other pathogenic agents including enteroviruses, echoviruses and adenoviruses.
In Sumi's case, her AFP might have been caused by 'vaccine virus' which results when an immunization dose goes wrong. It is irreversible, unlike AFP triggered by viruses other than polio. "It is possible since she had received polio drops. But we must wait for the test reports," said Dilip Ghosh, commissioner of health. The chances were slim, he added. "Thousands of AFP cases are reported every year. Barring one in January 2011, none resulted from polio. Since the baby has shown signs of improvement, let's hope this one is just a reversible AFP case," Ghosh said. The WHO has kept the child under observation. "It will continue till the reports arrive. The girl, though, has shown signs of improvement. In fact, her limb movements have been normal over the past two-three days. She has been moving around without help which is an encouraging sign," said Mukherjee.
According to a National Polio Surveillance Project (NPSP) report, over 8,000 AFP cases have been investigated by with the support of local health authorities in 2012. All of them have tested negative for polio.