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Rising polio cases may cause more travel restrictions

Updated October 18, 2014
.—AFP file photo
.—AFP file photo

ISLAMABAD: With the confirmation of two more polio cases, it is feared that rising number of victims in the country may lead to more recommendations about travel restrictions on Pakistani nationals by the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB).

On behalf of the international donor agencies, the board issues reports on performance of countries in the fight against polio every six months.

It is currently working on a report on Pakistan which will be made public by the end of this month.

Also read: What do polio travel restrictions mean for Pakistan?

The new polio cases were reported from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) on Friday, raising this year’s tally to 209. The cases were confirmed by Polio Virology Laboratory at the National Institute of Health.

An 18-month-old girl, of Akka Khel village in Bara tehsil, Khyber Agency, and an eight-month-old girl, of Ghawa Khuwa in Wana tehsil of South Waziristan Agency have been reported to have been affected.

“The two children could not be vaccinated because a polio campaign could not be held in Fata since June 2012 due to a ban imposed by Taliban,” an official of the Ministry of National Health Services said.

Know more: Polio monitoring board meeting may put Pakistan in trouble

In Nov 2012, the IMB had recommended travel restrictions on Pakistani nationals to stop transfer of polio virus to other countries. The board had recommended that Pakistani nationals going abroad must have a certificate confirming that they had been vaccinated against polio. The recommendation was implemented in May this year.

The official said Pakistan had broken its own 13-year record of polio cases this year. In 2000, as many as 199 cases were reported in the country but in the current year 209 cases have already been reported so far.

“The IMB can even recommend that the polio certificate should be made mandatory whenever a Pakistani national applies for the visa of a foreign country,” he said.

National Health Services Minister Saira Afzal Tarar told Dawn that the government had been trying to eradicate polio.

At a meeting presided over by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday, it was decided to deploy Rangers with polio teams in areas which had become polio reservoirs, she said.

“Polio day will be observed on Oct 24. Quality polio campaigns will be launched to eradicate the virus in the current low transmission season,” she said.

Published in Dawn, October 18th, 2014