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July 9, 2019

Catastrophic increase in polio cases as country count touches 41

Islamabad

July 9, 2019

Islamabad: The catastrophic increase in the number of polio cases in Pakistan is all set to challenge the recent prediction made by the PM’s Focal Person for Polio Eradication Babar Bin Ata. With four new cases adding to the national count on Monday, 41 children have been crippled by the disease in the first six months of the ongoing year. And while the PM’s Focal Person had predicted 50 cases in 2019, current trends point to an aggressively bleak scenario—not merely for Pakistan but also for every single child around the world.

The new cases have been reported from District Jaffarabad and Killa Abdullah in Balochistan, and District Bannu in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. KP alone is conspicuous with 33 polio cases, followed by three cases each from Punjab and Sindh, and 2 cases from Balochistan.

A 30 month-old boy and a 12 month-old girl from district Bannu, an 8 month-old boy from district Jaffarabad, and a 9 month-old boy from District Killa Abdullah in Balochistan are latest victims of polio. According to the National Emergency Operations Centre for Polio Eradication, all four children are zero routine immunization cases, and have predominantly attributable to parental refusals. “The identification of new cases is yet another reminder that as long as poliovirus exists anywhere in the country, no child is safe from being infected,” the statement points out.

“The reasons governing the polio disaster notwithstanding, the situation warrants an emergency investigation by an international team, to not only ascertain the causes of the outbreak at a time when Pakistan should have been moving towards zero cases, but also to devise an emergency strategy that promises protection and guarantees that the virus will not spill over to countries that have worked hard to attain polio-free status,” a health expert suggested out of concern.

The NEOC statement quotes Babar Bin Atta as sharing that the next door-to-door polio vaccination campaign in selected districts has been scheduled in the month of July and August. He has appealed to parents, religious leaders and other stakeholders to convince people to vaccinate their children, “so that the virus has nowhere to go.” Reality is that the virus knows no boundaries and has already severely compromised Pakistan’s position vis-à-vis the international goal for polio eradication.

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by poliovirus mainly affecting children under the age of five. It invades the nervous system and can cause paralysis or even death. While there is no cure for polio, vaccination is the most effective way to protect children from the crippling disease. Each time a child under the age of five is vaccinated, their protection against the virus is increased. Repeated immunizations have protected millions of children from polio, allowing almost all countries in the world, except Pakistan and Afghanistan, to become polio-free.

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