Infant in Attock diagnosed with poliovirus strain for which vaccinations halted in 2014

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Amjad Iqbal

TAXILA: A case of vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (VDPV2) — a strain of polio for which vaccinations in Pakistan were halted in 2014 —has been detected in Hazro, Attock.

An eight-month-old boy has been diagnosed with VDPV2, district health authorities confirmed on Monday. They said with this new case there have been four polio cases detected in Punjab this year, and 56 all over the country.

Health authorities said Punjab Minister for Health Dr Yasmin Rashid is expected to arrive in Attock on Tuesday for more information on the case and to review the arrangements to tackle the spread of polio in the area.

The detection of VDPV2 in Punjab comes after the presence of the wild poliovirus, WPV, was also found in the province this year, District Health Authority Chief Executive Dr Sohail Ijaz said.

He said the emergence of this strain has set alarm bells ringing due to the failure to eradicate both strains of the poliovirus in the province. He added that there is a misconception that the VDPV2 strain occurs due to vaccine inefficiency and that the strain has been reported in 14 other countries as well.

Dr Asad Ismail, the district health officer preventive services, told Dawn that a polio case has been reported in Attock district for the first time in 23 years. He said district health authorities are in the process of verifying the infant’s vaccination history.

“The status of the number of supplementary immunisation activity (SIA) and routine immunisation (RI) doses is being investigated,” he said.

Dr Ismail said the baby’s mother came from Hong Kong and delivered the baby in Pakistan. The baby was born premature and was in an incubator for weeks, he added.

To a question, he said during polio vaccination campaigns, children are administered vaccines for poliovirus type 1 and type 3 in the form of oral polio vaccines and vaccinations against type 2 were stopped in 2014 and the strain has not been detected in environmental samples since 2016.

He said two polio cases were confirmed in Lahore and Okara this February.

Measures are being taken to prevent the poliovirus in the area, Dr Ismail said, adding a vaccination drive will begin in the district on July 20.

According to information available on the Polio Eradication Programme website, 12 cases of the wild poliovirus have been confirmed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, eight in Sindh, four in Balochistan and one in Punjab.

Polio cases are only reported in two countries in the entire world: Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2020

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