Monday February 26, 2024

Another child crippled in Pakistan by poliovirus

December 03, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s polio eradication efforts suffered setback after health authorities reported that another child was crippled by the poliovirus, this time in Orakzai district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, raising the total human polio cases to six in the country.

“A 9-month-old child from the Orakzai district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been paralysed by poliovirus. This is the fourth polio case from KP and 6th polio case in Pakistan. Earlier, three polio cases were reported from Bannu and two from Karachi,” Dr Nadeem Jan, caretaker federal health minister, told The News on Saturday.

A representational image showing a polio worker administering anti-polio vaccine drops to a child. — AFP/File
A representational image showing a polio worker administering anti-polio vaccine drops to a child. — AFP/File

According to the health minister, genetically this case is 99.7 percent linked with the environmental sample of Lahore (Multan Road), which was collected on 26th September 2023, and it is the continuation of imported cluster in 2023. This is the first case from Orakzai district after almost 12 years.

On the other hand, Regional Reference Laboratory for Polio Eradication at the National Institute of Health (NIH), Islamabad, also confirmed the detection of Type-1 Wild Poliovirus (WPV1) in 20 environmental (sewage) samples collected in November 2023.

The positive environmental samples were found from Peshawar, three from Karachi East, two each from Quetta, Chaman, and Karachi Keamari, and one each from Pishin, Karachi Central, Karachi South, Hyderabad, Jamshoro, Bannu and Kohat.

These new detections take the total number of positive environmental (sewage) samples in Pakistan in 2023 to 84.

Health authorities in Islamabad were perturbed over the performance of polio eradication authorities following spread of poliovirus, saying they were planning to revise the polio eradication strategy following failure of the current strategy due to incompetence of programme officials.

They said after failing to contain the poliovirus, polio eradication initiative officials had started blaming the increase to malnutrition and infectious diseases, advising the ministries of health and food security to overcome the growing malnutrition in the country.

“In such circumstances, Pakistan cannot eliminate polio from its soil. Spread of poliovirus in low transmission season is a question mark over performance of local and international health officials associated with polio eradication program in Pakistan,” an official of the federal health ministry said.