New Delhi: Only one polio case has been detected in the country this year making it the longest polio-free period ever since eradication efforts were launched, the Government said on Sunday.

The only case of polio reported this year was from Howrah district in West Bengal on January 13. As many as 39 cases were reported in the country during the same period last year.

"For the first time no case of polio has been reported from Uttar Pradesh (since April 2010) and also from Bihar (since September 2010). No case of type 3 polio has come up for over a year," the Health Ministry said in a statement on the eve of the World Polio Day.

Closest ever to eradicating polio, the Ministry has decided to treat any fresh case of polio as a "public health emergency" in order to achieve polio eradication from India at the earliest, the statement said.

"An Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan has been drawn up to intensify measures to build the immunity of children in all high risk areas and also to conduct intensive immunisation campaigns rapidly in response to any polio cases if they occurred," it said.

In context of the World Polio Day, Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad noted that while the progress this year is remarkable, the risk still persists.

"We are close to our goal but are not taking any chances. Efforts will be further intensified in the country to stop any residual poliovirus circulation and also to prevent any polio cases following an international importation," he observed.

Azad also said the remarkable progress follows introduction of bivalent oral polio vaccine besides persistent efforts over the last few years in the highest risk areas and in reaching the most vulnerable populations such as the newborns, migrants and mobile populations. To mitigate the risk of polio importation from Pakistan which is experiencing a spurt in such cases, immunisation has begun at the Wagah border and Attari train station in Punjab since September and in Munabo of Rajasthan this month, Azad said.

All children crossing over to India by road and train are being administered polio vaccine. An alert has been sounded in the states bordering China to step up polio surveillance, he said.

"Continuous polio vaccination is also being carried out at 81 transit points along the Indo-Nepal border in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar since April this year," he said.

(Agencies)