Pakistan reports fourth case of polio virus in a year

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan reported its fourth case of polio this year after the Pakistan National Polio Laboratory confirmed that a 13-month-old boy in North Waziristan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, was paralysed by wild polio virus.

The child, a resident of Mir Ali, developed paralysis on May 5. This is Mir Ali’s third case of the year. Initial inquiries revealed that the infant had never received the oral polio vaccine.

Wild poliovirus is most prevalent in the southern districts of KP, including North and South Waziristan, DI Khan, Bannu, Tank, and Lakki Marwat. Additionally, Bannu reported that two samples of the environment tests were positive between April and May of this year. This indicates that the wild poliovirus continues to spread, and not just in North Waziristan.

All the children confirmed with wild polio this year belong to North Waziristan, where more cases are expected due to high refusal rates and instances of finger-marking without vaccination during campaigns. The Pakistan Polio Programme has conducted emergency campaigns in the area while children are administered vaccines at all entry and exit points from southern KP to the rest of the province and across the border to Afghanistan to control the spread of the virus.

With this new case, the number of wild cases of polio in endemic countries in 2022 has reached five. In February, one case was found in Afghanistan.

“Another child in North Waziristan has been paralysed by wild poliovirus. This 13-month-old child will live with disabilities for the rest of his life because of a virus that is entirely preventable. “This is a collective loss for Pakistan,” said Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel. “Over 99% of the world is now polio-free. “Our children also deserve a life free from this incurable disease,” he added.

“Parents don’t realise that every time they refuse vaccination or mark their child’s finger without giving them the polio drops during polio campaigns, they are exposing their children to lifelong disabilities. There is a huge cost to this practice,” said Health Secretary Aamir Ashraf Khawaja.

“All parents must realise the risk that wild polio continues to pose to children all over Pakistan. Please ensure that your children are vaccinated in the ongoing nationwide campaign being conducted in all 156 districts of the country,” the health minister added. The ongoing nationwide immunisation campaign, which started on May 23, will continue till May 27.