Saturday Apr 23, 2022
ISLAMABAD: Following the detection of the first polio case in Pakistan after a gap of 15 months, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif summoned a meeting of the National Task Force on Polio Eradication on Monday.
The premier has sought a report from the authorities concerned on the reasons behind the detection of type-1 wild poliovirus (WPV1) in the North Waziristan region, directing them to formulate an action plan for polio eradication.
This is the third case of wild polio to be recorded globally in 2022, The News reported.
The type-1 wild poliovirus (WPV1) was confirmed in a 15-month-old boy on April 22, 2022 with the onset of paralysis on April 9, National Polio Laboratory housed within the National Institute of Health (NIH) reported.
The laboratory has also confirmed the detection of a positive environmental sample collected on April 5, 2022, from the Khyber Pakhtwnkha's Bannu district. Both these viruses are closely related. Pakistan had reported one polio case last year on January 27, 2021 in Killa Abdullah, Balochistan.
Commenting on the development, Secretary Health Aamir Ashraf said: “This is, of course, a tragedy for the child and his family and it is also very unfortunate both for Pakistan and polio eradication efforts all over the world. We are disappointed but not deterred.”
“The case has appeared in southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where poliovirus was detected in the environment late last year and where an emergency action plan is already being implemented.
“The National and Provincial Polio Emergency Operations Centres have deployed teams to conduct a full investigation of the recent case, while emergency immunisation campaigns are underway to prevent further spread of the wild poliovirus in Pakistan.”
Southern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa had been identified by the polio programme as the area most at risk after wild poliovirus was detected in environmental samples in the last quarter of 2021. The positive samples had been found in DI Khan and Bannu divisions.
National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) Coordinator Dr Shahzad Baig said: “This validates the programme’s concerns about virus circulation in southern KP and strengthens our resolve to reach every child with the polio vaccine.”
In 2020, the KP province reported 22 cases, while no wild poliovirus cases were recorded in the province last year. Substantial progress has been made recently, with most areas accessible to implement immunisation campaigns, but deep-rooted problems and security concerns remain in limited areas. Despite the challenges, the programme’s brave frontline workers continue to reach children with the life-saving vaccine.
Wild poliovirus types 2 and 3 have been eradicated globally, while WPV1 cases are at a historic low. Two other WPV1 cases have been reported this year, one each in Afghanistan and Malawi.
Meanwhile, chairing a meeting at the Ministry of National Health Services, Minister for Health Abdul Qadir Patel called for focused efforts to overcome the last remaining bottlenecks and challenges in finishing the job of polio eradication.
“Pakistan has surmounted the most daunting of challenges and we are now well poised to stop transmission of poliovirus. Even a single case of polio should be taken seriously, and no effort should be spared to ensure complete eradication of the disease,” Patel said.
He appreciated the performance of the polio programme and frontline workers and assured full support on behalf of the government to secure the future of children in Pakistan.