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February 21, 2020

Two more polio cases confirmed in Lahore, Okara

Top Story

February 21, 2020

LAHORE: The effects of debilitating disease of polio continue as two more cases of wild poliovirus (WPV) have been confirmed in Lahore and Okara districts of Punjab.

The two female victims of the virus are confirmed with a singular difference among normal cases that the virus proved fatal for one child and appeared in the other at a relatively elder age of 14 years. “A female child from Lahore, aged 54 months, has been diagnosed with polio, while another female child from Okara, aged 168 months, has been diagnosed with polio,” the Punjab Polio Programme confirmed in a statement here on Wednesday.

The Punjab Polio Programme, however, claimed that none of the cases would be categorized as cases of current year of 2020, saying that the paralysis had appeared in the two children in December 2019, therefore they would be considered the last cases of 2019.

“Punjab remains in the grip of wild polio virus which paralyzed 12 children in the province in 2019, but none so far in the year 2020,” claimed Sundas Irshad, head of the Polio Programme in Punjab.

Meanwhile, Punjab is in the middle of a five-day national anti-polio immunization campaign, which began on February 17 as the year’s first nation-wide campaign to immunize 19.9 million children in Punjab and 39.6 million across the country. As Punjab has an effective surveillance system, the presence of a huge migrant population from reservoir districts has increased the fear of virus transmission across the country if polio is not eradicated from Punjab.

Sources told The News that the paralysis appeared in the four-and-a-half years old female child from Okara on 08.12.2019 and the 14-year-old female child from Lahore on 28.12.2019, but the former expired on 11.01.2020 before the diagnosis of the crippling disease in two patients was confirmed by the National Institute of Health (NIH), Islamabad, on 20.02.2020.

“The peculiar cases of wild poliovirus can be fatal, while in other cases, the disease can emerge at a later age after remaining dormant in the body for a long time,” said an official of the Polio Programme, Punjab, requesting not to be named.

The emergence of new cases of polio have increased the toll of disease to 12 in Punjab and 146 all over Pakistan in the year 2019, making it the worst year in the last five years. A total of two cases of polio were confirmed in Punjab among overall 54 cases in 2015; no case was reported in Punjab among a total of 20 cases in 2016; one case was confirmed in Punjab among overall 8 cases in the country in 2017; and none was reported in Punjab among 12 cases confirmed in the country in 2018.

Although, no case of polio appeared in Punjab in the current year of 2020 so far, however as many as 17 cases of polio have been confirmed this year so far in other parts of the country including 10 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 5 in Sindh and 2 in Balochistan.

Sundas Irshad, incharge of the Polio Programme, Punjab, assured parents that polio vaccine is safe, efficacious, and approved by the government’s drug regulatory authorities. She emphasized the need for all children to be immunized during every round of immunization campaign days. “In a major success in the ongoing national polio eradication drive, the Punjab Polio Programme has vaccinated over 19.95 million children in the first three days. In order to save more children from permanent paralysis, we need to carry the same momentum in the remainder of the low season campaigns till June,” Sundas said.

“The provincial government is committed to the task and is in the process of putting in mechanisms to reach all the missed children and children on the move”, the polio chief said.