KARACHI: Sindh recorded another case of polio — third of the year — in a seven-month-old boy belonging to a family from Punjab settled in the city’s most volatile Gadap neighbourhood, officials confirmed on Sunday.
“We have received confirmation from the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Islamabad and the World Health Organisation about the polio virus detected in a seven-month-old Imran,” said a health department official overseeing the child health in the city.
He said that the child’s father, Mohammad Iqbal, originally hailed from Punjab and was settled in Hasan Nauman Colony in Gadap’s highly sensitive union council-4.
He said that the boy’s stool samples had been sent to the NIH in the beginning of the month and it took four weeks to get the results, confirming wild polio virus in the victim.
Another official, however, said the boy had been inoculated only once in a special polio campaign carried out by the government, adding that his immunity and a lack of backup boosters led to the severe attack of the crippling disease on his frail body.
“The report suggests the virus attack had affected all his four limbs,” said the official.
A 22-month-old Afghan girl from Orangi Town was the second victim of the polio virus which was confirmed two weeks ago. However, the officials were optimistic that the effects of the virus were ‘much milder’ and could be treated successfully.
They had said that the girl had been inoculated with polio boosters for more than 10 times, which was why it was surprising for them to see her affected by the polio virus. He said it could either be lower immunity in the girl which allowed the virus to attack her.
Last month, a two-year-old girl became the first victim of polio in Sindh. She belonged to a Pakhtun family and was a resident of Ittehad Colony of Baldia Town — an area categorised as among the ‘most sensitive’ neighbourhoods by the government vis-à-vis polio immunisation.
Officials said that the family had migrated to Karachi from the country’s troubled northwest — the region that recorded close to 100 cases of polio since January last year because of stiff resistance posed by the Taliban on polio vaccination — some eight months ago.
Health officials are stunned over detection of several new polio cases in the province. They had recorded four such cases till the mid of November 2013 but within the space of less than two months last year seven more cases — six in Karachi and one in Kashmore — had been detected.
They said that despite maximum attention being paid and continued immunisation campaigns being run; the situation was not satisfactory in Sindh at all.
In January, a special polio drive to inoculate children in 40 ‘sensitive’ union councils of the metropolis had been abandoned when three vaccinators were shot dead by unknown drive-by shooters.
The government has launched one-day special campaigns on Sundays in the least-covered neighbourhoods for more than two months now, which again, had shifted their attention from many areas which are relatively safer.
There have been increasing refusals in Sindh particularly during the last year. Most of them came either from Pakhtun families and a few districts which have witnessed some militant attacks in the recent past.
Last year, total number of polio cases in Pakistan rose to 93 as compared to 58 in 2012; the number of infected districts/towns/tribal agencies/ areas in the country was 20 as compared to 28 in the preceding year.
This year some 47 cases have already been reported in Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Pakistan had reported six polio cases in the first four months last year while the number has already climbed to 50. All the three cases in Sindh have been reported from its capital.
“More than 90 per cent of the total polio cases are from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas,” said a Unicef report.
Meanwhile, the weekly one-day anti-polio campaign was held on Sunday amid a ban on pillion-riding within 25 union councils of Karachi.
Hundreds of polio teams have been mobilised to inoculate around 500,000 children, missed out in the previous campaigns.