PESHAWAR: The laboratory has confirmed the first four wild polio cases in the country in 2014 and all the four cases came from North Waziristan Agency (NWA), officials of the provincial health department told The News on Sunday.
According to officials, like previous victims of the poliovirus in the volatile North Waziristan, these four children had not received any dose of oral polio vaccine (OPV) due to ban imposed by local Taliban led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur on polio immunisation as a protest over US drone strikes. Besides North Waziristan, the Taliban in the adjoining South Waziristan had also banned polio vaccination and vowed to continue this ban till drone strikes are stopped there.
The government and its health department has not been able to conduct polio campaign in the both the tribal regions, mainly ruled by the militants, during the past 18 months, that caused the explosive polio outbreak there. Government officials said efforts were underway to overcome barriers between vaccinators and children in other reservoirs of Peshawar and Karachi, the situation in North Waziristan and South Waziristan remains stuck. Those diagnosed with poliovirus included Yasmin, daughter of Rahat Khan. She is a 14 months old female child and is the resident of Eedak village in Mir Ali subdivision.
The second child was Malala daughter of Luqman Khan. She is a 17 months old female child and is the resident Anghar Kalley in Miranshah Tehsil.The third child identified was as Noor Samida daughter of Sher Daraz Khan. She is a 19 months old female child and is the resident of Sheratalla village in Mir Ali subdivision.And the fourth child was Munaiba daughter of Aminullah. She is an eight months old female child and is the resident of Mir Ali-2 in Mir Ali subdivision.
It is worth mentioning that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared Peshawar as the largest reservoir of endemic poliovirus in the world. In its recent report, it stated that with more than 90 per cent of the current polio cases in the country genetically linked to Peshawar, the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province was now the largest reservoir of endemic poliovirus in the world. Pakistan is the only polio-endemic country in the world where polio cases rose from 2012 to 2013.
According to the latest genomic sequencing results of the Regional Reference Laboratory for Poliovirus, 83 out of 91 polio cases in the country during the last year are genetically linked to the poliovirus circulating actively in Peshawar. Moreover, it stated that 12, out of the total 13 cases, reported during the previous year from Afghanistan are also directly linked to Peshawar.
For the last four years, samples of sewage water from throughout the country are periodically tested for presence of poliovirus in the environment. 86 samples of sewage water were collected from different locations of Peshawar since the last four years, and 72 of these samples have shown the presence of the highly contagious and paralytic wild poliovirus strain.
During the last 6 months, all the samples collected from various locations of Peshawar have shown presence of the highly contagious wild poliovirus strain in the environment.Peshawar has reported 45 polio cases during the last 5 years whereas 04 cases were reported during the previous year from Peshawar, it explained.
The explosive poliovirus outbreak in Fata, which has left 65 children paralyzed during the last year, is also sustained by Peshawar. As much of the population of the area moves through Peshawar, the city acts as an amplifier of the poliovirus.
The prevailing security situation in Peshawar has seriously affected the quality of polio campaigns in the city and is resulting in inadequate coverage of children against the virus. The existing state of polio eradication efforts in Peshawar by the provincial government should be improved in order to interrupt poliovirus transmission.
WHO recommended that repeated, high quality vaccination campaigns, accompanied by strong monitoring, should be held in Peshawar to stop the transmission and protect children from polio?