Islamabad: A two-year-old girl in Pakistan Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province has tested positive for polio, the second such case in the country in a week, causing concern among health officials because the virus that causes the crippling disease can travel with people during the Eid holidays.
Pakistan, along with its neighbor Afghanistan, is one of the world’s two polio-endemic countries. Polio is caused by a highly contagious virus. Until this last remaining epidemiological bloc eradicates polio, children all over the world face life-long paralysis or death from the virus.
“Today, the Pakistan National Polio Laboratory at the NIH, Islamabad, confirmed the presence of Type-1 Wild Poliovirus in the stool of a 24-month-old girl from the district of North Waziristan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.” “The girl’s paralysis began on April 14, 2022,” an official statement said on Friday.
Earlier that day, on April 22, a 15-month-old boy was confirmed to be a poliovirus victim. Both children are from the Mir Ali area of North Waziristan in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
The cases of wild poliovirus (WPV1) are genetically linked and belong to the same virus cluster, confirming the Pakistan Polio Programme’s concerns for southern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, where continuous virus circulation has been detected, according to the Dawn newspaper.
Types 2 and 3 wild poliovirus have been eradicated worldwide, while type 1 cases are at an all-time low. This year, two more WPV1 cases have been reported, one each in Afghanistan and Malawi.
According to the Dawn report, the new polio cases, which have emerged in Pakistan after the country had been polio-free for nearly 15 months, have caused concern among officials because the virus can travel with people due to the massive movement during Eid holidays.
Following the confirmation of the case last week, the National and Provincial Polio Emergency Operations Centres have launched an emergency vaccination campaign. According to the report, health secretary Aamir Ashraf Khawaja said, “I strongly urge everyone travelling for Eid holidays to get their children vaccinated if they are traveling from one area to another.”
Shahzad Baig, coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Centre, expressed concern that as the virus spreads, more children from the same area may be affected.
Attempts to eradicate the crippling disease in Pakistan have been severely hampered in recent years by the deadly targeting of vaccination teams by militants and hardliners opposed to the drives, claiming that the polio drops cause infertility.
Following an increase in attacks on polio workers in various parts of the country, successive governments have suspended the anti-polio drive and post-campaign evaluation.