Pakistan detects two more poliovirus cases

M. Waqar Bhatti
A boy receives polio vaccine drops during an anti-polio campaign in Karachi, Pakistan. — Reuters/file
A boy receives polio vaccine drops during an anti-polio campaign in Karachi, Pakistan. — Reuters/file

  • Two new cases are of Type-1 Wild Poliovirus (WPV1). 
  • Cases detected in samples collected from Faisalabad, Peshawar.
  • NIH officials say sample was collected on November 07, 2022.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has reported two new cases of poliovirus found in the environmental samples collected from Faisalabad and Peshawar last month, The News reported on Saturday. 

The two new cases are of Type-1 Wild Poliovirus (WPV1). This was confirmed by Pakistan’s National Polio Laboratory.

Providing details of the new positive environmental sample in Faisalabad, National Institute of Health officials said the positive environmental sample was collected on November 07, 2022, from the ‘Pumping Station-3 Achikaira’. It was the first positive poliovirus case reported from the city in 2022.

Before this episode, the last positive sample was detected on April 05, 2021, from the district but it was an orphan virus variant. However, the last Wild poliovirus case was reported in 2008. Starting from November 28, a week-long anti-poliovirus campaign is currently underway in the district.

Similarly, Type-1 Wild Poliovirus (WPV1) was also detected in the environmental sample collected from Peshawar (Naray Khuwar site) in November 2022. The last Wild Poliovirus case from the district was reported in July 2020. The site covers seven union councils, which have a population of 460,511 individuals, including 67,791 children under the age of five years. The last anti-poliovirus campaign in the district was conducted in October from 24 to 30. The next campaign will be conducted from December 5 to 11 in the district.

With the latest detection of poliovirus cases, the tally of positive samples of poliovirus in the country reaches 34 in 2022. The month-wise breakup shows one positive sample was detected in April, two in May, one in June, seven in July, twelve in August, eight in September, one in October and two in November, said officials. During the ongoing year, so far, 23 positive cases have been detected from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 9 from Punjab and one each from Sindh and the federal capital.

The city and district-wise breakup indicate ten from Bannu, six from Peshawar, five from Swat, three each from Lahore and Rawalpindi, one each from Nowshera, South Waziristan, Bahawalpur, Sialkot, Faisalabad, Karachi and Islamabad. In 2021, 65 positive environmental samples were detected in the country.

Meanwhile, a delegation of the Polio Oversight Board (POB) led by Dr Chris Elias said there is unprecedented support and commitment to eradicate polio in Pakistan by 2023. “The eradication is within the reach given the resolve of the government and the community, especially front-line workers. Reaching every child during the upcoming polio campaigns and strengthening the routine immunisation system is critical to success,” said Elias.

During the visit, the delegation met Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, the federal health minister, the Pakistan Army’s engineer-in-chief and the heads of provincial governments of Balochistan, KP and Sindh, and reiterated support to help Pakistan end poliovirus transmission by 2023.

The Polio Oversight Board is the highest decision-making body of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. This is the delegation’s second visit to Pakistan this year. The earlier visit was in May, following the detection of a polio case in Pakistan after nearly 15 months. The recent visit follows the destruction of several health facilities and mass displacement due to catastrophic floods, which increased the risk of transmission of poliovirus.