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September 3, 2020

Two more polio cases reveal a trend in Punjab

National

September 3, 2020

LAHORE: Two more cases of wild poliovirus in Punjab — an eight-month child from Dera Ghazi Khan and a 13-year-old child from Bahawalpur — reveals disturbing trends of virus transmission.

As one of the two child victims, confirmed with WPV on Tuesday, has already expired, it was the fourth mortality reported posthumously in Punjab in the last three months.

Earlier, two cases of wild poliovirus each were confirmed posthumously in Lahore and Dera Ghazi Khan. The child, who lost his life due to the crippling disease, suffered disability in his all four limbs.

The child from DG Khan lost his life after suffering disability at all four limbs, while the 156-month-old child from Bahawalpur suffered disability in his right leg. Last month too, the wild poliovirus was confirmed in a 14-year-old boy who had suffered disability to his all four limbs and expired in the Mayo Hospital on July 27, reported posthumously by the National Institute of Health (NIH), Islamabad, on August 15, 2020.

The hitting of wild poliovirus to a 13-year-old child, hailing from the Bahawalpur district, sparked a debate whether the disease affected the teenaged children equally as it is usually attributed to be affecting kids of up to five years of age. With two more kids falling victim to the crippling virus, the number of confirmed cases of wild poliovirus in Punjab has risen to eight this year so far, while overall 67 polio WPV cases have been reported from across Pakistan in 2020 so far.

“Although it is not the first case of virus detection in a child but still is quite unusual,” says a doctor, while attributing malnutrition and co-morbidities to be the likely causes triggering poliovirus to attack grown-up children.

Sundas Irshad, Incharge of Punjab Polio Programme, said the two child victims of wild poliovirus belonged to low socio-economic status and were living in poor conditions. “Although two quite successful polio vaccination campaigns were conducted in December last year and January this year, the anti-polio drive was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “The virus transmission continued due to gap in polio eradication campaigns,” she added.

As the anti-polio campaigns have resumed, she informed that the upcoming national polio vaccination drive will be held on September 21. “The campaign will help break the transmission of the virus.” she added.

More than 30 million children, including nearly 18 million in Punjab alone, were deprived of polio vaccines across Pakistan due to the cessation of anti-polio activities in late March due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to experts, the polio is a highly infectious disease caused by wild poliovirus, mostly affecting children under the age of five, which invades the nervous system and causes paralysis or even death.

Out of a total of 67 confirmed poliovirus cases in Pakistan this year so far, 22 cases have been reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 21 in Sindh, 16 in Balochistan and eight in Punjab.

Previously, a total of two wild poliovirus cases 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; none was reported in Punjab among 12 cases confirmed in 2018; and 12 cases were reported in Punjab among 147 cases confirmed in the country in 2019.

To add to this, 52 cases of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type-2 (cVDPV2) have been confirmed across Pakistan in 2020 so far including 42 cases in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, six cases in Punjab, three in Sindh and one in Balochistan. Previously, only two cases of cVDPV2 were confirmed in Pakistan in 2015, one case in 2016, none in 2017 and 2018, while cVDPV2 surged again with confirmation of 22 cases in 2019. Unfortunately, Pakistan is one of only two countries in the world, alongside Afghanistan, still affected by poliovirus.