ISLAMABAD: A sewage sample collected from Peshawar has tested positive for wild poliovirus type 1, taking the number of positive environmental samples this year to 15.

According to the Pakistan Polio Laboratory at the National Institute of Health, the sample was collected from the Naray Khuwar area. The virus has been genetically linked to the virus cluster circulating in Afghanistan.

National Emergency Operations Centre for Polio Eradication Coordinator Dr Shahzad Baig confirmed this was the seventh positive environmental sample detected in Peshawar this year and the fifth consecutive positive from the site.

The city was covered in the most recent vaccination drive carried out from Aug 7 to 13, during which children under five were given oral polio vaccine, according to Dr Baig.

Caretaker minister terms eradication of crippling disease his priority

In a statement, Federal Health Secretary Iftikhar Ali Shallwani said authorities were equipped to respond to the detection of the virus.

“It is concerning that the virus is consistently showing up in environmental samples in Peshawar,” he said.

Meanwhile, caretaker health minister Dr Nadeem Jan has said focusing on the eradication of poliovirus will be his priority.

Talking to Dawn, Dr Nadeem Jan, who is also a polio expert, said it was unfortunate that countries like Somalia and Sudan have eradicated the virus but Pakistan failed to do so.

“I have decided to give special attention and focus to the polio programme so that the virus could be eradicated,” said Dr Jan on the day he took the oath of his new position.

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2023

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