Sunday September 24, 2023

Environmental samples in Peshawar test positive for WPV1

May 30, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Following Hangu, two more environmental samples collected from the Peshawar district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province have tested positive for wild poliovirus, officials said on Monday.

The Pakistan Polio Laboratory at the National Institutes of Health has confirmed that wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) has been found in sewage samples collected from Naray Khuwar and Larama collection sites on May 9 and May 16, respectively. According to the lab, the isolated viruses are genetically linked to the virus cluster circulating in the neighbouring Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

Federal Minister for Health Abdul Qadir Patel has said that as the only two endemic countries, Pakistan and Afghanistan are united in their fight against polio and both countries will not rest until they eradicate it. “The Pakistan Polio Programme is maintaining a robust surveillance system, which is evident from the prompt detections of the virus in sewage samples recently,” he said. “We will continue to hunt and eliminate the virus wherever we find it to protect our children from a disability-causing disease.” The minister added that poliovirus on any side of the border is a threat to children everywhere, and parents must continue to ensure that their children under five receive the life-saving polio drops in all campaigns.

Dr Shahzad Baig, the Coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) for Polio Eradication, said Pakistan collects environmental samples from 114 sites in 80 districts every month to test for WPV1. He added that the presence of the virus in the environment is a cause for concern but not unexpected since last month was the high-travel season of Eid. “The Polio Programme has mounted swift responses to all virus detections in the past and will continue to do so in future to prevent poliovirus from finding a home in under-immunised children,” he said.

The NEOC coordinator added that the Pakistan Polio Programme is working in close coordination and collaboration with the Afghanistan Polio Programme and provincial EOC to ensure high-quality vaccination at all border crossings and to identify and plug any remaining immunization gaps. Pakistan has reported only one polio case and nine positive environmental samples so far this year, while three human cases and 23 positive environmental samples have been reported in Afghanistan.