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August 26, 2019

Three more polio cases reported in KP, two from Hyderabad

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August 26, 2019

PESHAWAR: At a time when the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is launching the anti-polio campaign after a break of four months from Monday, three more children fell prey to the poliovirus in the province on Sunday, officials confirmed.

The National Institute of Health (NIH), Islamabad, notified three polio cases from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, one each from Hangu, Bannu and North Waziristan. It took the total count of polio cases to 44 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 58 in the country in the current year so far.

According to officials, one wild poliovirus was isolated from the stool sample of 18- month-old girl, a resident of Mainijkhel village of the Dallan Union Council in Thall subdivision of the Hangu district.

Similarly, two new polio cases were notified from the Bannu Division, one each from Bannu district and North Waziristan. The laboratory confirmed the poliovirus in the 30 months old boy, a resident of Dinor, the Mir Ali subdivision of North Waziristan, and 18 months old girl from Bannu. All the children had a history of zero doses for essential immunisation and were found undernourished.

In response to the reporting of new polio cases in the province, Emergency Operation Centre, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Coordinator, Kamran Ahmed Afridi, said the virus was active in southern districts of the province, especially in the Bannu division. He said it was circulating in the environment that could hit any unvaccinated child.

The official said the only viable solution to the problemwas to vaccinate the children in every campaign as only repeated doses could protect them from permanent disability and stop the virus circulation.

Kamran Afridi appealed to the parents not to pay any attention to the propaganda and rumours, adding the polio vaccine was safe and did not cause any harm. It is worth mentioning that the KP government has announced anti-polio campaign in 26 districts. It is the first time the government is going to conduct the campaign in four months after the alleged reaction to thousands of children in Peshawar during the polio drive on April 22, this year.

Around 45,000 children were brought to hospitals, the majority of them in Peshawar when rumours spread that vaccine had affected children in schools. The government had later initiated inquiry and arrested some of the people falsely misguiding parents about the polio vaccine and preventing them from vaccinating their children. According to officials of the Health Department, the April 22 incident had caused huge damage to the anti-polio programme and thousands of parents refused to get their children vaccinated.

“There are still many challenges on the ground and our people are scared of propaganda against the polio vaccine. We are expecting refusals in certain places but the campaign is the only solution to overcome the virus,” an official of the Health Department said. He said the government was making concerted efforts to handle the millions of refusals and thus delayed the campaign for four months. That, according to him, damaged the efforts made to eradicate poliovirus. The situation is quite alarming. On condition of anonymity, he said parents had genuine questions about polio vaccine and it needed to be addressed.

M. Waqar Bhatti adds from Karachi: The Emergency Operation Centre for Polio in Sindh has announced that two polio cases have been reported from the province, both from the city of Hyderabad which takes the total case count for Sindh in 2019 to five. Out of these five cases, two are from Karachi, one from Larkana and two from Hyderabad. The total case count in the country is now 58.

An official of the EOC Sindh on Sunday said the dreaded polio virus has affected two children in Hyderabad, including a baby girl of 12 months of age who is a resident of Quetta town in District Hyderabad.

According to her mother, the child Memoona Habibullah had a history of vomiting and loose motion. On 20th July, the parents noticed weakness in both lower limbs and the child became lethargic, weak and was not able to stand. On 23rd July during case response in Hyderabad, a polio team notified the child affected. It may be noted that the child had received no routine immunization and was low on immunity.

The other child affected by the polio virus is also 12 months of age and a resident of Chungi Lal, District Hyderabad. According to the mother, on 05th August after returning from school, the child Rubab Fatima complained of ache in both lower limbs. Her mother massaged both lower limbs and noticed that child was unable to stand and walk.

On 06th August, the parents brought the child to SG Hospital Shah Bhittai Latifabad Hyderabad, where the child was notified as AFP case and subsequently tested for polio. She has weakness in both lower limbs but because of routine immunization doses may be saved from complete paralysis.

A spokesperson for the Emergency Operation Centre for Polio in Sindh deplored that the polio programme was badly affected by rumors on social and mainstream media and incidents such as the Peshawar incident in April which had set the programme back.

However, communities now must understand that if children are not repeatedly vaccinated, polio will return and spread. It is with great effort that polio cases were bought down to a handful but now the virus is spreading because of community fatigue and resistance. He appealed to parents to cooperate with polio team and save the children of Pakistan from this virus. “A case response activity will now be conducted in six districts (144 UCs) of Larkana and Hyderabad Divisions of Sindh targeting 1,011,553 children aged 0-59 months from 26th–29th Aug 2019 and this is a golden opportunity to turn the tide.”