Appeal for calm after polio death rumours spark panic

Srinagar, Jan 17 (IANS) Authorities on Sunday appealed for calm after rumoured deaths of children following polio vaccination in the Kashmir Valley triggered a mad run to hospitals by hundreds of anxious parents with their children.

Huge crowds thronged hospitals across south Kashmir in the wake of the rumours, fearing for their own children who had been vaccinated, even as officials insisted that not a single death had occurred anywhere.

Mosques also made announcements asking parents not to panic.

“No death has been reported in the valley due to polio drops,” Anantnag Chief Medical Officer Fazil Kochak told IANS on phone, adding “miscreants are propagating false information through social media.

“Parents are requested not to heed these rumours which have no basis at all,” he added.

But despite the denials, scores of worried parents who had got their children vaccinated against polio rushed to hospitals. In Srinagar, this led to traffic jams.

Authorities urged radio and television stations to air the official denial to calm the situation.

The polio drops are being administered across the Kashmir Valley through family welfare sub-centres as well as private and government hospitals.

Deputy Inspector General of Police Nitish Kumar told IANS that they were tracking the source of the rumour.

“We are trying to find out the source and will take legal action against the culprit,” he said.

A health employee at a hospital in Anantnag said hundreds of parents had brought their children who were administered polio drops.

The rumours suggesting deaths were baseless, said senior health department official Mandeep Bhandari, adding the polio vaccine was 100 percent safe.

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