ISLAMABAD: Four more polio cases have been reported — two each from Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — taking the tally for the current year to 119.
According to a notification issued by the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Islamabad, the cases in Sindh have been reported from Sukkur and Tando Allahyar districts, and in KP from Tank and Bannu districts.
An official of the NIH, requesting anonymity, said that a 22-month-old child in Tando Allahyar, Chamber tehsil, Began Jarwar Union Council, was brought to a health facility with symptoms of polio and so his samples were collected. However, the child died before confirmation that he was infected with polio.
“The other case from Sindh is of an 84-month-old girl, who is a resident of Sukkur district, New Sukkur tehsil, UC Rahooja. In KP, a 15-month-old boy has been infected with polio, who is a resident of Tank tehsil. Another child from the same province is a 17-month-old girl, who is resident of Bannu tehsil, UC Sikander Khel Bala,” he said.
Coordinator for the National Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) for Polio Dr Rana Safdar, while talking to Dawn, said that poliovirus had been rampant throughout 2019 due to a number of factors.
One of the patients, a 22-month-old child dies
“We have just started our battle afresh with the successful December nationwide campaign, the first since January as the April attempt was effected by the unfortunate Peshawar incident in which some persons staged a drama that children of a school were affected with polio vaccine,” he said.
“Two follow-up national campaigns are planned in February and April 2020 that along with efforts for improving the routine immunisation coverage can turn the tide. However, collective efforts at all levels are imperative,” he said.
“Considering current risks, the National EOC urges all parents to proactively vaccinate their children against all vaccine preventable diseases, including polio, free of charge from the nearby health facility,” Dr Safdar said.
It is worth mentioning that during the current year as many as 119 cases have been reported as compared to 12 cases in 2018 and only eight cases in year 2017.
Provincial data for the current year shows that 83 cases have been reported from KP, 21 from Sindh, nine from Balochistan and six from Punjab.
Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by poliovirus mainly affecting children under the age of five. It invades the nervous system, and can cause paralysis or even death.
While there is no cure for polio, vaccination is the most effective way to protect children from this crippling disease. Each time a child under the age of five is vaccinated, their protection against the virus is increased. Repeated immunisations have protected millions of children from polio, allowing almost all countries in the world to become polio free.
There are only two countries in the world — Pakistan and Afghanistan — where polio cases are being reported. Pakistan remains under a polio-linked travel restriction imposed by the World Health Organisation due to which, since 2014, every person travelling abroad has to carry a polio vaccination certificate.
Published in Dawn, December 28th, 2019