Pakistan

Pakistan reports fourth wild polio case

ISLAMABAD, 25 MAY 2022 – In the fourth case this year, a 13-month-old boy has been paralysed by wild poliovirus in North Waziristan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

The child had an onset of paralysis on 5 May in Mir Ali. The case was confirmed by the Pakistan National Polio Laboratory at the National Institute of Health, Islamabad on Monday, 23 May. This is the third case from Mir Ali this year.

“Another child in North Waziristan has been paralyzed by wild poliovirus. This 13-month-old child will live with disabilities for the rest of his life because of a virus that is entirely preventable. This is a collective loss for Pakistan,” said Federal Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel.

“Over 99% of the world is now polio-free. Our children also deserve a life free from this incurable disease,” he added.

The southern districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, namely North and South Waziristan, DI Khan, Bannu, Tank and Lakki Marwat, are at highest risk of wild poliovirus. Bannu also reported two positive environmental samples between April and May this year, confirming that ongoing wild poliovirus transmission is not limited to North Waziristan.

“Parents don’t realize that every time they refuse vaccination or mark their child’s finger without giving them the polio drops during polio campaigns, they are exposing their children to lifelong disabilities. There is a huge cost to this practice,” said Federal Health Secretary Aamir Ashraf Khawaja.

According to preliminary investigations, the child had not received any dose of the Oral Polio Vaccine.

All children confirmed with wild polio this year belong to North Waziristan, where more cases are expected due to high refusal rates and instances of finger-marking without vaccination during campaigns. The Pakistan Polio Programme has conducted emergency campaigns in the area, while children are administered the vaccine at all entry and exit points from southern KP to the rest of the province and across the border to Afghanistan to control the spread of the virus.

“All parents must realize the risk that wild polio continues to pose to children all over Pakistan. Please ensure that your children are vaccinated in the ongoing nationwide campaign being conducted in all 156 districts of the country,” the health minister added.

The nationwide immunisation campaign started on 23 May and will continue across the country until 27 May.

With the new case, the global count for wild polio in 2022 has reached five from the endemic countries, with one case reported from Afghanistan in February.

Note for the Editor:

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by poliovirus mainly affecting 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 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, besides the two endemic countries of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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