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Polio virus from Pakistan reaches Israel

July 19, 2013

ISLAMABAD, July 18: A polio virus found recently in southern Israel is exactly of the same kind as prevalent in Pakistan.

Dr Nima Abid, a representative of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Pakistan, while talking to Dawn expressed surprise over the development.

“We don’t have details how the virus travelled all the way to Israel.”

It may be noted that Pakistan and Israel have no diplomatic relations.

According to Dr Abid, “The virus genotype (genetic make-up) is the same as prevalent in Pakistan and this is what the research has indicated.”

He added: “We are amazed how it travelled all the way to Israel since the virus only existed in Pakistan. However, similar virus samples were also found in Egypt a few months back which had linkages with the Pakistan polio virus type-I (P-I).”

He said the virus was definitely from Pakistan since the genotype was from the same family of virus that existed in Pakistan.

For the last five years, there have been no cases of polio in Egypt, and in Israel much before that, said the WHO official.

He added that the laboratory at the National Institute of Health (NIH) was taking samples from every polio affected area and then performing its genotype tests. “And the P-I virus genotype is the same as prevalent in Pakistan.”

Dr Abid added: “The research is related to where the virus first travelled, either it first reached Egypt or Israel?”

The WHO official added that samples of same virus strain were also found in sewage in Cairo, Egypt, in December last year.

The WHO website relating to Israel, an update on polio, said: “Most positive WPV1 (polio virus) samples were detected from southern Israel. All viruses have been detected in sewage only.”

The website added: “WHO’s international travel and health recommends that all travellers to and from the polio-affected areas be fully vaccinated against polio. Three countries remain endemic for indigenous transmission of WPV: Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Additionally, in 2013, the Horn of Africa was also affected by an outbreak of WPV.”

About how a virus travelled, a senior physician in Islamabad, refusing to share his name with Dawn, observed: “Even an elderly person can transmit the polio virus as it remains in the intestinal track of humans for many days regardless of their age.”

He explained that polio virus entered the body through mouth by consuming water or food that has been contaminated with waste material (stool) from an infected person.

The physician said polio virus multiple in the human intestine and an infected person who passed the stool at any place can pass on the virus to other people.

When contacted, Mazhar Nisar, the spokesman for the EPI Cell, said the Pakistani authorities were very alert in limiting the travel of polio virus to any other region and running the national immunisation days and campaigns.

“If you look at our performance, the number of polio cases this year has gone down to a great extent compared to the corresponding period last year,” he maintained.

According to the polio cell figures, around 25 polio cases were reported from January to June 2012 in Pakistan. This year, the number is just 18 and most of the cases have been reported from Fata and different parts of Khyber Pkahtunkwa. He added: “We are facing security issues for polio vaccinators and refusal case from parents.”