Following the discovery of a poliovirus strain in Egypt that resembles the one found in sewage water tested in Sukkur district, the prime minister’s focal person for polio eradication has asked the Sindh chief secretary to ensure vaccination campaigns were carried out uninterruptedly in the province.
In a letter sent to Raja Muhammad Abbas on Tuesday, a copy of which was sent to Sindh Health Minister Dr Sagheer Ahmed and Health Secretary Aftab Khatri, Shahnaz Wazir Ali stated the office of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Pakistan had reported the exportation of the wild polio virus type-1 from Pakistan to Egypt.
“The virus was isolated in sewage water samples collected from two different sites in Cairo,” she said. “The genetic analysis indicates the origin of virus from Sukkur district in Sindh Province.”
The prime minister’s focal person for polio eradication further said the new development had international implications including the possibility that the condition of pre-travel vaccination against polio would be imposed on Pakistani citizens travelling abroad – a step already recommended by the Independent Monitoring Board of Global Polio Eradication Initiative in its report issued in November 2012.
She maintained that the exportation of polio was a stark reminder of the international risk associated with the failure of eradicating polio in Pakistan.
Ali said it was important to highlight that the outbreak of polio in People’s Republic of China in 2011 was also traced back to the circulation in northern Sindh.
The evidence of the presence of poliovirus in Sukkur clearly showed the performance gaps in the district that needed to be addressed on an urgent basis.
In view of the development, she said it was imperative to continue conducting quality vaccination campaigns uninterruptedly across Sindh and take all measures necessary to address forthwith any challenges impeding the smooth conduct of these drives.
“I look forward to your urgent attention to the matter,” she stated at the conclusion of the letter.