Polio virus from Afghanistan found in Peshawar water

Updated 14 Apr 2014

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PESHAWAR/MARDAN: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Health Minister Sharam Khan Tarakai said on Sunday that polio virus from Afghanistan had been found in water samples in Peshawar and they had requested the federal government to ask the neighbouring country to take emergency steps to stop transportation of virus to the city which had recently been cleared of poliovirus.

“The World Health Organisation has found virus from Afghanistan’s Kunar province in two of the six water samples taken from Shaheen Muslim Town, Peshawar, on February 26. The Afghan government has been requested through the federal government to take quick measures,” Mr Tarakai told reporters at the inauguration of the 11th round of Sehat Ka Insaf programme at the Maulvi Jee Hospital here on Sunday.

He said that the other four samples showed presence of oral polio vaccine, meaning that the successful vaccination campaigns had paid off.

Results from another site, Larama, showed that the virus from Bara, Khyber Agency, was present in three samples, he said. He said that the WHO had found OPV in other three other samples, which showed that children were now safe from polio in Peshawar, which had been declared polio reservoir by the WHO in January. “It has happened for the first time in two year that virus has been eradicated from Peshawar. Last month, water samples from the designated site tested negative due to Sehat Ka Insaf programme,” he said.

“In view of the success achieved we have appealed to the central government to take up the issue of vaccination with the Afghan government as the children in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa stand a risk of poliomyelitis despite vaccination,” he said. The minister said that they had proposed establishment of special vaccination unit on Afghanistan border to ensure immunisation of children entering Pakistan.

Khan said that the KP government had also asked the federal government to carry out immunisation in Bara tehsil to put brakes on transmission of virus to Peshawar. He said that the province had worked hard to make Peshawar free of poliovirus and the success could be jeopardised by virus coming here from other cities and Afghanistan.

Mr Tarakai later told a press conference that a total of 1.4 million children under five years had been vaccinated in Peshawar, Mardan, Charsadda and Swabi with the help of 11,500 volunteers and said that the last of the 12 rounds would take place on Sunday next.

The international community has appreciated the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for its mass immunisation to tackle the poliovirus, he said and hoped that vaccination of children coming to Peshawar from Afghanistan and Bara would be ensured through joint efforts to protect children from the vaccine-preventable childhood ailment.

In Mardan, the health minister inaugurated the second round of Sehat Ka Insaf programme at the Mardan Medical Complex on Sunday.

The inaugural ceremony was attended by minister for education Mohammad Atif, deputy commissioner Amir Latif, WHO representatives, polio eradication programme district head Dr Nayaz Mohammad and other officials.

Both the ministers administered vitamin-A drops and anti-polio and other vaccines to children to protect them from nine crippling diseases.

The deputy commissioner had imposed Section 144 in the district and banned motorcycle riding on the day. Over 3,000 police personnel had also been deployed in different parts of the district to avoid any untoward incident during the campaign.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Tarakai said that Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led provincial government had launched the SKI programme to create a healthy society by eradicating childhood diseases.