Health ministry reports two new polio cases

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Naveed Siddiqui

The National Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) for polio eradication on Wednesday notified about two new polio cases — one from Gadap area in Karachi and other from Khyber tribal district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — bringing the total number of polio cases in the country to six this year, however, the virus failed to cause any clinical paralysis to both the children.

According to a statement issued by the health ministry, the first case of polio was confirmed in a 42-month-old female child from Gadap, Karachi, and the other case was confirmed in a 55-month old female child from Khyber tribal district, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The laboratory detected the presence of poliovirus in their stool samples taken on October 1 September 30, respectively.

“Fortunately, both girls had received multiple doses of the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) which boosted their immunity and protected them from a life-long paralysis,” read the statement.

“The polio virus has been continuously found in the sewage waters of Peshawar and Karachi for the last 12 months,” said Babar Bin Atta, the prime minister’s focal person for polio eradication.

“The programme will continue to focus on clearing these two remaining reservoirs from the virus with full force,” Atta remarked.

National Coordinator for Polio Eradication Dr Rana Safdar said, “The multiple vaccine doses gave the children the immunity boost to fight off the poliovirus attack. They have no residual weaknesses and will live like normal children.”

He appreciated the vigilant health workers who picked these cases with atypical clinical presentations, saying, “This why it’s important for every under five-year-old child to be vaccinated in every round, so immunity levels are high enough to fight off the virus in its entirety.”

Earlier this year, three polio cases were reported from Dukki District in Balochistan, while one case was reported from the Charsadda district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Being fully vaccinated in routine and door to door campaigns, the Charsadda child had also escaped paralysis.

The wild poliovirus case numbers in Pakistan are the lowest ever and the immunity gaps continue to fall. However, despite this historic progress, Atta said: “We cannot afford any let up in our efforts because as long as the virus is being detected anywhere in the country, no child is absolutely safe.”

Multiple doses of polio vaccine are required for a child to be fully protected – each additional dose further strengthens a child's immunity level against polio. Contrarily, every missed child provides a place for the polio virus to hide.

“Any child with low immunity will be where the virus will find refuge. We need to ensure all our children have received all of their routine immunisations and are vaccinated, with two drops, every time the vaccine is offered,” Bin Atta added.

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