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- Saturday, November 10, 2012 - From Print Edition


Islamabad: Confirming the detection of a mysterious strain of polio virus that has affected five children in Balochistan, leading anti-polio partners, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) and the Prime Minister’s Polio Cell have attributed its emergence to “persistently and extremely low Routine Immunisation (RI) coverage in Pishin and Qilla Abdullah districts of Balochistan” and “serious performance gaps.”


A joint statement issued here on Thursday informs that poor RI coverage leads to cVDPV (Type 2) cases, which may cause the Type 2 poliovirus to mutate and attain a form that leads to paralysis after passing through multiple children via the oral route due to poor sanitation. The average percentage of RI coverage in Pishin and Qilla Abdullah reportedly stands at an abysmally low 38% only.


“The cVDPV (Type 2) is an extremely rare strain of poliovirus which has been isolated in other parts of the world, including countries with low RI coverage, such as Somalia and Nigeria,” WHO’s senior coordination for polio eradication Dr. Elias Durry states.


According to WHO, cVDPVs (Type 2) can rapidly be stopped with 2 to 3 rounds of high-quality, large-scale polio campaigns. cVDPVs are less virulent than wild polioviruses, and are hence easier to stop than outbreaks of wild polio virus. However, outbreak response strategies are the same for both: immunise every child under the age of five years several times with OPV to stop polio transmission through polio campaigns and improvement of RI.


The new virus has impacted four children in Qilla Abdullah and one in Pishin. In Pishin, 25 month-old Suleman experienced onset of paralysis on August 30, 2012; the child’s right upper and lower limbs have been affected.


In Qilla Abdullah, the victims are 11-month old Hasan Khan, who had onset of paralysis on September 12, 2012 and whose left lower limb is affected; 18-month old Safia, who had onset of paralysis on September 17, 2012 and whose left lower limb is affected; 7 month-old Muhammadia, who had onset of paralysis on September 25, 2012 and whose all four limbs are affected; and 12 month-old Qudria, who had onset of paralysis on October 1, 2012 and whose both lower limbs are affected.


Commenting on the situation, the Prime Minister’s Polio Monitoring and Coordination Cell said, the discovery of the new cases highlights “serious performance gaps” resulting in children being persistently missed in different areas of the country.