ISLAMABAD: While hea­lth authorities are participating in the Technical Advisory Group’s (TAG) deli­berations at Doha aimed at eradicating the crippling disease, Pakis­tan on Saturday reported the third polio case of the current year.

Besides, three more env­ironmental samples have been found positive for polio, taking the tally to 140.

A 12-year-old girl from the Kili Malak Haqdad area of Darozai union council in Balochistan’s Killa Abdul­lah district became the latest victim.

According to a document, available with Dawn, the child got fever one week before the onset of paralysis. During the fever, she developed pain on the right side of her body as well as had vomiting one day before the paralysis attack. The child developed weakness of right upper limb and both lower limbs. There is no history of trauma or intramuscular injection.

Samples from three contacts were collected as the case was inadequate. Wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) was detected from the stool sample of a 60-month-old sister of the victim.

No travel history of the child or any household member to anywhere was found within 35 days prior to the onset of paralysis, but the family had guests from Quetta and parts of Killa Abdullah.

According to the Regional Reference Laboratory for Polio at the National Institute of Health, WPV1 was detected in stool samples collected from a child in Darozai UC, who developed symptoms of paralysis on April 20. Genetic sequencing of the isolated virus is underway.

“It is incredibly tragic that another child has been affected by polio this year in Balochistan,” said Prime Minister’s Coordinator on National Health Services Dr Malik Mukhtar Ahmed Bharath, adding that polio is a terrible illness that changes not just the child’s life but also of the whole family.

Doha deliberations

A polio expert, wishing not to be quoted, said that all the reports and data were already showing that three core regions — Karachi, Quetta block and Peshawar-Khyber — had become safe havens for the virus in Pakistan.

“The girl belongs to Quetta block and has been paralysed despite the fact that she is 12 years old. It shows that we have badly failed in controlling the crippling disease and all gains made until the year 2021 have been lost. Our health team must be facing an embarrassing situation in TAG meetings,” he said.

TAG is an independent body tasked with advising and making recommendations to each ministry of health and partners on polio eradication programme policies, strategies and operations.

“We have already conducted four polio vaccination campaigns this year, including two nationwide campaigns to boost children’s immunity and we will be conducting another campaign in June,” he added. This is the third polio case from Balochistan this year and the first reported from Killa Abdullah after a gap of three years.

Last year, six polio cases were reported in the country — four from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and two from Karachi.

Environmental samples

Meanwhile, three more environmental samples have been found positive for polio taking the tally to 140 from 38 districts during the current year so far. In 2023, there were 126 detections reported from 28 districts.

According to an official of polio lab, “Intense transmission, just in the beginning of high transmission (summer) season, indicates widespread risk of paralysis to vulnerable children during next few months”.

The Regional Reference Laboratory for Polio Eradication at the National Institute of Health, Islamabad, has confirmed the detection of WPV1 in the three previously infected districts — Pishin, Chaman and Hyderabad.

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2024

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