ISLAMABAD: Two sewage samples collected from Quetta and Karachi have tested positive for the presence of wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1).

According to the Regional Reference Lab for Polio Eradication at the National Institute of Health, the samples were genetically linked to the imported YB3A cluster of virus prevalent in Afghanistan.

The cluster was eradicated from Pakistan in 2021, but remained in circulation in the neighbouring country and reintroduced through cross-border transmission in January 2023.

The environmental sample in Karachi was collected from Keamari district.

According to authorities, environmental samples collected from 31 districts have tested positive so far, with all of them containing the YB3A poliovirus genetic cluster.

Disease belongs to genetic cluster prevalent in Afghanistan

The two polio cases of 2024 were also genetically linked to the same cluster.

Meanwhile, the Natio­nal Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) for Polio Eradication organised a briefing for the donors and partner organisations supporting the Pakistan Polio Eradication Initiative (PEI).

They were apprised of the progress in polio eradication efforts.

The Prime Minister’s coordinator on National Health Services, Dr Malik Mukhtar Ahmad Bharath; Federal Health Secretary Nadeem Mehbub; representatives of WHO, Unicef and Rotary Foundation; Pakistan National Polio Plus Committee Chairman Aziz Memon; and officials of donor agencies attended the briefing.

In his address, Dr Bharath said that Pakistan was committed to fulfilling its obligations under global public health and eradicating polio.

Highlighting the progress of polio eradication efforts, he said: “With the support of our valued partners and donors, we are running the largest polio eradication programme in the world, backed by an extensive poliovirus surveillance network and modern lab.”

However, he added that Pakistan “continues to detect cases” indicating the need for more work to be done.

“The strong commitment and dedication of our partner agencies and donors has been crucial in bringing us this close to polio eradication. I hope that this support continues as Pakistan positions itself to interrupt poliovirus transmission this year,” he added.

In his address, Health Secretary Mehbub said that the ministry was providing its full support to the polio eradication programme “to reach every child with the vaccine”.

Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2024

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