LAHORE, Jan 26: A World Health Organization (WHO) official says this is for the first time in the public health history of Pakistan that the country is on the track to get rid of poliovirus type 3 (P3), one of the two globally continuing strains of the wild poliovirus, in April.
Last time, a P3 case was reported on April 14, 2012 and it would be a great breakthrough in the fight against polio if the virus is not found in any part of the country till April 14 this year.
India is gearing up to be declared polio free by 2014. The WHO has already removed India from the list of polio endemic countries.
“We believe that Pakistan is on the right track to become free of poliovirus type P3, as the last P3 case was reported in the Bara Tehsil in Khyber Agency in the second week of April 2012, whereas all recent sewage samples show no active transmission of the P3 strain across the country,” Dr Elias Durry, head of the Polio Eradication Initiative at WHO Pakistan, told Dawn.
According to the WHO, type 2 strain of the poliovirus (P2) has been eradicated globally since 1999.
About eradication of the P3 strain throughout the world, Dr Durry says Nigeria reported 19 cases of the P3 strain and the most recent case was reported in November. He says that recent security-related incidents disrupted national polio campaigns. “Though there is more than 70 per cent decrease in polio cases in Pakistan, no corner of the country can be considered polio free until the poliovirus is eradicated throughout the country,” says the WHO official.
“Pakistan successfully brought down the number of cases by 71 per cent in 2012 compared to 2011. All provinces except Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have brought down the number of cases from 66 per cent to 95 per cent,” says the official.
Dr Durry says last year Balochistan brought down the number of polio cases by 95 per cent, Sindh by 88 per cent, Punjab by 78 per cent and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) by 66 per cent. “The most promising sign for Pakistan during the last year was a massive decrease in the number of polio cases during the high transmission season,” he said.
He said the last polio case of 2012 was reported on Nov 30 and a small number of samples from last year was still pending with the polio virology lab for evaluation. “Most likely, Pakistan is going to close its tally of 2012 polio cases at 58,” Dr Durry said.
The official says that all sewage samples collected from cities of Punjab in recent weeks were found negative. He says: “Most samples collected from Peshawar, Gadap Town in Karachi and Hyderabad produced positive results in the past, but they showed negative results now.”