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Poliovirus cases in Pakistan rise to 6 as disease cripples another child in KP

Health workers administer anti-polio vaccine to the children during the polio eradication drive in Hyderabad. — Online/File
  • Nine-month-old baby diagnosed in KP’s Orakzai district.
  • Number of cases in Pakistan reaches six in 2023.
  • “This is the fourth polio case from KP,” health minister says.

ISLAMABAD: A nine-month-old baby has been diagnosed with poliovirus in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Orakzai district, taking the total number of cases in Pakistan to six this year, The News reported on Sunday.

The diagnosis has caused a setback to the government’s rigorous efforts towards the eradication of polio from the country, particularly KP where the number of cases saw an increase this year and the latest taking the tally to four.

Commenting on the new case found in the KP province, Caretaker Health Minister Dr Nadeem Jan, said: “A nine-month-old child from the Orakzai district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been paralysed by poliovirus. This is the fourth polio case from KP and 6th polio case in Pakistan. Earlier, three polio cases were reported from Bannu and two from Karachi,” he said, speaking with The News on Saturday.

Genetically, according to the minister, this case is 99.7% linked with the environmental sample of Lahore (Multan Road), which was collected on September 26, 2023, and it is the continuation of the imported cluster in 2023. This is the first case from Orakzai district after almost 12 years.

On the other hand, the Regional Reference Laboratory for Polio Eradication at the National Institute of Health (NIH), Islamabad, also confirmed the detection of Type-1 Wild Poliovirus (WPV1) in 20 environmental (sewage) samples collected in November 2023.

The positive environmental samples were found from Peshawar, three from Karachi East, two each from Quetta, Chaman, and Karachi Keamari, and one each from Pishin, Karachi Central, Karachi South, Hyderabad, Jamshoro, Bannu and Kohat.

These new detections take the total number of positive environmental (sewage) samples in Pakistan in 2023 to 84.

Health authorities in Islamabad were perturbed over the performance of polio eradication authorities following the spread of poliovirus, saying they were planning to revise the polio eradication strategy following the failure of the current strategy due to the incompetence of programme officials.

They said after failing to contain the poliovirus, polio eradication initiative officials had started blaming the increase on malnutrition and infectious diseases, advising the ministries of health and food security to overcome the growing malnutrition in the country.

“In such circumstances, Pakistan cannot eliminate polio from its soil. Spread of poliovirus in low transmission season is a question mark over performance of local and international health officials associated with polio eradication program in Pakistan,” an official of the federal health ministry said.

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Amit Ghosh
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