ISLAMABAD: Two environmental samples, taken from Pishin and Peshawar, tested positive for Afghan strain of the poliovirus, marking the first time since April 2021 that poliovirus traces have been found in sewage samples from the province of Balochistan.
The Pakistan Polio Laboratory at the National Institute of Health (NIH) notified on Wednesday that wild poliovirus (WPV1) was isolated from an environmental sample collected from Naray Khuwar in Peshawar and from Turwa in Pishin.
According to the laboratory, which is also the WHO Regional Reference Lab, the Peshawar sample is connected to the virus detected in Nangarhar and that of Pishin to the virus in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
First detection reported from Balochistan since April 2021
Federal Minister for Health Dr Nadeem Jan, in a statement, said that the presence of poliovirus on any side of the border remained a constant threat to all children everywhere.
“A nationwide polio campaign is scheduled in October to vaccinate over 44 million under five against this disability-causing virus. I urge parents and caregivers to ensure that their children are vaccinated in this campaign,” he said.
He further said that while the persistent detection of the virus in the environment was highly concerning, it also highlighted the efficiency of the Pakistan Polio Programme’s surveillance system.
“As two countries with historic geographic and demographic ties, Pakistan and Afghanistan cannot eradicate polio without each other, and both countries stand united in their fight against polio,” he added.
It was the 11th positive sample from Peshawar this year and the first positive environmental sample from Balochistan since April 2021. Both districts were covered in a polio vaccination campaign in the beginning of August, while the next is planned from October 2 onwards, which will be a national drive.
Federal Health Secretary Iftikhar Shallwani said Pakistan was committed to eradicating polio and witnessed a remarkable decline in the number of cases in recent years.
“We are fighting the virus wherever we find it, through swift and effective vaccination campaigns, and we will not rest until we have made Pakistan polio-free,” he added.
Pakistan has reported two polio cases and 24 positive environmental samples this year, while five cases have been reported in Afghanistan and 33 positive environmental samples.
Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2023