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Lahore boy contracts polio as tally hits nine in 2019

Updated May 02, 2019

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Focal Person on Polio Babar bin Atta says the increase in refusal rates is proof that the communication strategy for the polio vaccination programme has failed. ─ File photo
Focal Person on Polio Babar bin Atta says the increase in refusal rates is proof that the communication strategy for the polio vaccination programme has failed. ─ File photo

ISLAMABAD: Officials on Wednesday confirmed Pakistan’s ninth case of polio virus in the year so far. According to an official at the National Institute of Health, a 10-year-old boy from Lahore has been infected with the virus.

“Samples were collected on April 2 and sent to Islamabad for confirmation. The virus belongs to an Outfall Pumping Station in Lahore,” said an official deputed in the polio laboratory of the National Institute of Health. The Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication, Babar bin Atta, confirmed the news when Dawn spoke to him.

Read more: Will Pakistan ever become polio free?

The incubation period of the polio virus is usually between three and four weeks.

“It is worrying that for the second time this year a 10-year-old boy has been infected with the polio virus,” said the lab official.

The new polio case proves the recommendations of polio experts who emphasise that the vaccination campaign must be run in core reservoirs including children of up to 10 years of age, he said.

“This is why it was decided that polio vaccine would be administered to children of up to age of 10 years in core reservoirs including Rawalpindi and Peshawar. However, because of refusals in Peshawar we were unable to do so,” he said, referring to the recent vaccination campaign issues in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Speaking about the polio virus detected in Lahore, Focal Person on Polio Mr Atta said, “It is unfortunate that for four years, the previous Punjab government remained in a state of denial regarding the presence of polio virus. There was no one to take the ownership of the [polio eradication] programme. Though the polio virus was being reported from Lahore but the Punjab government would say that the virus belonged to Peshawar. But we could also have turned around and said that the virus in Peshawar originates in Afghanistan and not take ownership of the issue. We have to take steps to eradicate it [virus].”

Replying to a question about the increase in refusal rates, he said, “It is proof that the communication strategy for the polio vaccination programme has failed. We must remove the concerns of parents and need to come up with a better communication strategy.”

The breakdown of the nine polio cases that have been reported so far are as follows: two each from Lahore and Bannu, one each from Hangu, Waziristan, Bajaur, Khyber Tribal district and Karachi.

Along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, Pakistan is one of the only three countries where complete polio eradication has not yet been achieved.

Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2019