A two-year-old girl in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province has been tested positive for polio, the second such case in the country in a week, triggering panic among health officials as the virus causing the crippling disease can travel along with people in the massive movement during Eid holidays. Pakistan is one of the two polio-endemic countries in the world along with its neighbour Afghanistan.
Polio is a highly infectious virus. Until this last remaining epidemiological bloc wipes out polio, children across the globe remain at risk of life-long paralysis or fatality by the virus.
“Today, the Pakistan National Polio Laboratory at the NIH, Islamabad, has confirmed the detection of Type-1 Wild Poliovirus from the stool specimen from a 24-month-old girl from district North Waziristan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The girl had an onset of paralysis on 14 April 2022," an official statement said on Friday.
Earlier on April 22, a 15-month-old boy was confirmed to be a victim of poliovirus. Both children belong to Mir Ali area of North Waziristan in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
The wild poliovirus (WPV1) cases are genetically linked and belong to the same virus cluster, further validating the Pakistan Polio Programme’s concerns for southern parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, where continuous virus circulation has been detected, the Dawn newspaper reported.
Type 2 and 3 of wild poliovirus have been eradicated globally, while type 1 cases are at a historic low. Two other WPV1 cases have been reported this year, one each in Afghanistan and Malawi.
The new polio cases, which emerged in Pakistan after it remaining a polio-free country for almost 15 months, have created panic among the officials concerned as the virus can travel along with people because of massive movement during Eid holidays, according to the Dawn report.
“The National and Provincial Polio Emergency Operations Centres are conducting an emergency vaccination campaign after confirmation of the case last week. I strongly urge everyone travelling for Eid holidays to get their children vaccinated if they are travelling from one area to another," health secretary Aamir Ashraf Khawaja was quoted as saying in the report.
National Emergency Operations Centre coordinator Shahzad Baig expressed concern that more children from the same area may be affected as the virus circulates. Attempts to eradicate the crippling disease in Pakistan have been seriously hampered by deadly targeting of vaccination teams in recent years by militants and hardliners who oppose the drives, claiming that the polio drops cause infertility.
Successive governments have suspended the anti-polio drive and post-campaign evaluation in the past following the increasing number of attacks on polio workers in different parts of the country.
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