Tuesday August 09, 2022

Two sites in Punjab test positive for polio

August 04, 2022

LAHORE:The environmental polio samples obtained from two sites in Lahore and Rawalpindi have tested positive.

The latest report of positive environmental samples breaks a 14-month polio-free record of Punjab. The last environmental sample tested positive back in May 2021. “The positive samples in Lahore and Rawalpindi indicate that the virus is circulating in the region, even if no case was identified it’s alarming for all the children”, stated Ms Syedah Ramallah Ali, Emergency Operations Centre Coordinator and head of the polio programme in Punjab.

“Government is planning a response in the areas in order to vaccinate every child by administering polio drops to boost their immunity against crippling disease”, Ms Ramallah said. “If a single case is reported in a region, it remains threat to children residing in 200 houses in vicinity. Even though no case is reported from Punjab up till now, but the positive environmental samples are a clear message to all the parents to vaccinate their children with two drops of polio every time it is offered”, added the EOC coordinator.

The government considers surveillance for Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) to be the “gold standard” for polio surveillance in endemic and polio-free countries. But experts also indicated that environmental surveillance was feasible and could serve as an early warning system for the detection of poliovirus when targeting areas where high-risk groups, such as mobile population, refusals, under or un-immunised populations, reside. Punjab has set up 20 permanent environmental sampling sites in 13 districts. They include Lahore, Multan, DG Khan, Rajanpur, Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Faisalabad, Sargodha, Rawalpindi Gujranwala, Sialkot, Sahiwal and Okara. The two sites have tested positive after 20 samples were obtained from across Punjab.

Lahore has five polio environmental sampling sites located at Multan Road, Gulshan Ravi Station and three at Outfall Road, while Rawalpindi has two sites located at Safdarabad and Dhok Dalal.

Foolproof strategy to curb polio virus urged: An emergent meeting of Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) was held here to discuss the worsening polio situation in the country. The meeting was presided over through video link by Dr Salma Aslam Kundi, President PMA Centre, while Dr SM Qaisar Sajjad, Secretary General PMA Centre and other senior members attended.

They expressed concern over the outcome of positive environmental samples from seven cities indicating the presence of the polio virus in Islamabad, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Bannu, Nowshera and Swat.

Detection of polio virus in the sewage samples is very alarming. The polio cases from these seven cities will emerge which will increase the number of polio cases in the country. Pakistan remained polio-free for 15 months until April 2022, after which 14 cases have been reported. It seems that we are once again returning back from the brink of eradicating wild poliovirus transmission. Now it is time for the government to chalk out foolproof strategy to curb polio virus on emergent basis.

PMA believed that parents should know more about polio virus and its consequences that could make their child handicap which will be very miserable for whole society. In this regard, a strong positive awareness campaign through print, electronic and social media should be initiated and a documentary about 30 to 60 seconds should go on air to aware the people about the consequences of the polio virus. It will also aware the people about the importance of polio vaccine. The PMA demanded the government convince the people that vaccine is very effective and remove all the misconceptions from the public minds.