The state of Telangana declared a “high alert” for polio after an active strain of the virus was found in samples of sewage water in the state capital, Hyderabad.

Rajeshwar Tiwari, Telangana‘s top health official, said on Wednesday that a vaccination drive will be launched next week after tests revealed the Type-2 polio virus in sewage samples.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The virus was found in regular lab tests conducted on samples of sewerage water collected at Amberpet on 17 May, he added.

He said about 350,000 children ranging from 6 weeks to 3 years old will be vaccinated in the weeklong campaign, which will start on Monday.

Two lakh vaccines were airlifted from Geneva immediately after the virus was detected, Hindustan Times reported. The government will bear the entire cost of medicines and vaccines to be administered to the children in these areas.

The virus strain was detected during random tests of sewage that have been carried out regularly since India was formally declared polio-free in 2014.

On 27 March, 2014, India along with 10 other countries of the South East Asia region was certified polio-free. After almost two decades and Unicef’s initiatives, polio was eradicated from the country.

This recent case in Telangana is a cause of worry and concern over the resurfacing of Polio in India. However, Hindustan Times quoted CK Mishra, additional secretary, health ministry, as saying “there is no need to panic”.

“India maintains its polio-free status as we have scanned the area and no polio case has been found,” he said.

“This is not the first time that a strain has been found but it is a vaccine-derived polio strain that is found commonly in children with low levels of immunity. They excrete it, which is why it is found in the sewage samples,” Mishra added.

The last case of the crippling disease in the country was detected in the eastern state of West Bengal in 2011.

With inputs from agencies

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Active polio strain found in sewage water; Telangana on ‘high alert’