In a quest to have preventive vaccination outrun the wild polio virus globally, a variety of informative campaigns were launched this year, primarily raising the number of awareness programs and vaccination drives in the last two countries that continue their fight against poliovirus: Afghanistan and Pakistan.
It is commonly known that no child in the world is safe from the risk of getting infected by poliovirus until even one, in the entire world, remains positive.
With medical science aiming to upend the endemic globally, Pakistan is doing all to support the cause and play its part.
Most common spread points of polio
Here is a list of some of the key ways the virus multiplies:
Via person to person contact
The wild virus resides primarily in an infected person's throat and intestines, and enters another body through the mouth or nose.
If a person comes in contact with an infected person's feces or sneeze and cough droplets, he/she is at a higher risk of catching the virus.
The faecal-oral and oral-oral route
Although poliovirus can transmit from one person to another through many ways, the most frequent means of spread is the faecal-oral route.
This means of transmission is most rampant in areas with poor sanitation.
In places where high standards of hygiene are maintained, the virus is transmitted via the oral-oral route only.
Via contaminated water, food and drinks
The disease generally spreads when the virus enters the body, primarily via the nose or mouth, which comes in contact of food or water carrying virus strains.
Less commonly, the virus travels through raw or undercooked food and drinking water or beverages contaminated with the faeces of an infected person.
Through open defecation areas
Poor sanitary practices, including defecation in the open, keeping hands unwashed while eating and after using the toilet, are common in rural areas and slums. These points of spread play a key role in spreading the highly contagious virus amongst children.
With little to no awareness in an increasingly polluted environment, the well-being of Pakistani children is at high risk at the hands of the contagious virus.
When a child is infected with wild poliovirus, the virus enters the body through the mouth and multiplies in the intestine. It is then shed into the environment through the faeces where it can spread rapidly through a settlement, especially in situations of inadequate hygiene and sanitation
What is Pakistan doing to fight polio this year?
While polio virus is still rampant in Pakistan, an underdeveloped country with issues like high infant mortality rate, lack of basic sanitary facilities and rising undernutrition, countries like Nigeria were able to fight the virus with some basic but persistent efforts.
These countries invested in continuous awareness sessions and mass immunisation drives against the contagious virus, eliminating it for good.
Whereas in Pakistan, around 40 million children under the age of five missed out on their routine vaccination this year because of lockdown measures around Covid-19. This, coupled with low immunisation, only lead to a surge in cases.
On the other hand, the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme (PPEP) is doing all to dispel rumours about vaccination and raise awareness on the importance of participation in such drives.
A four-day polio vaccination campaign, all set to begin on Nov 30, will administer oral polio vaccines to 885,000 children with 2,504 mobile teams visiting each house in union councils in the district of Rawalpindi.
With increased nationwide immunisation drives and active awareness programs, the PPEP is confident that the rise in polio cases will soon be upended.