ISLAMABAD: Nine more positive environmental samples for polio were detected this week, taking the tally for the current year to 185.

The total number of infected districts for the year stayed unchanged at 45, as against 126 from 28 districts during the entire 2023. Five cases of polio have been reported this year.

An official of the Laboratory for Polio Eradication at the National Institute of Health confirmed the detection of Type-1 Wild Poliovirus (WPV1) from nine sewage samples.

“In Quetta, an environmental sample was collected from Railway Pul site and it was the 22nd positive sample from Quetta district this year. In Pishin, a sample was collected from Turwa and it was the fifth positive sample from the district this year. In Chaman, samples were collected from Army Kaziba and Hadi Packet sites and they were the 13th and 14th positive samples, respectively, from the district this year,” the official said.

“In Hyderabad, a sample was collected from Tulsidas pumping station site and it was the ninth positive sample from the district this year.

“In Mirpur Khas, a sample was collected from Ring Road Puraan site and it was the third positive sample from the district this year,” he said.

The official said two samples were collected from Karachi’s Keamari district, Muhammad Khan Colony and Orangi Nala sites. They were the 10th and 11th positive samples respectively for the current year.

“In Peshawar, a sample was collected from Naray Khuwar Palosi Pul site and it was the 13th positive sample from Peshawar district this year,” he said.

In reply to a question, the official explained that if virus of the crippling disease was found in a sewage sample, the sample was called positive and whenever a child was paralysed with the virus, it was called a positive case.

“A sewage water sample from an area is the basic parameter to determine if polio vaccination campaigns are being carried out successfully. After detection of samples, polio campaigns are held immediately to eradicate the virus from the area,” he said.

“A polio case can be reported in any city due to frequent movement of people from one city to another, but the presence of virus in sewage water means that a vaccination campaign in the area did not meet its target.” The presence of the virus in sewage water shows that the immunity level of local children has fallen and they are at risk of catching the disease, he added.

He said that Pakistan was on the verge of eradicating polio in 2019, but the absence of “accountable leadership” cost the country dearly.

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by poliovirus. It mainly affects children under the age of five years. It invades the nervous system and can cause paralysis or even death.

While there is no cure for the disease, vaccination is the most effective way to protect children from this crippling menace. Every time that a child under the age of five is vaccinated, their protection against the virus rises. Repeated immunisations have protected millions of children, allowing almost all countries in the world to become polio-free, except for Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2024

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