Polio virus detected from sewage in eight highly populated Pakistani cities

09:35 AM | 15 Jan, 2019
Polio virus detected from sewage in eight highly populated Pakistani cities
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ISLAMABAD – The wide range environmental surveillance established by the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme has detected the polio virus from the sewage of eight populous cities during last month.

According to results shared by the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC), the presence of poliovirus was confirmed in sewage samples collected from Karachi, Peshawar, Bannu, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Killa Abdullah, Pishin and Quetta during December 2018.

Considering the associated risks, the country programme has urged parents to ensure immunization of all children under the age of five years during the upcoming anti-polio campaign scheduled to start from January 21.

“Our case counts are declining but as long as the virus is present anywhere in the country, the threat of polio remains for the vulnerable children. Continuous population movements to and from these infected cities, therefore, pose a risk to children elsewhere as well,” Dr Rana Safdar, National Emergency Operations Coordinator of the Polio Eradication said on Monday.

While acknowledging progress already made towards the noble cause, the recently concluded Technical Advisor Group urged the programme to focus on children, who miss vaccination because for any reason and let the virus survives no longer.

“To finally eradicate the virus, vaccinating all children against all preventable diseases including polio is imperative both in routine as well as in special door to door campaigns,” Dr Safdar added.

“The misconception of a caregiver led to paralysis of another child in Bajaur agency, who had every right to live a healthy and productive life. It is a reminder to everyone that no excuse can save your child from paralysis, especially if the child is not repeatedly vaccinated,” Babar Bin Atta, the Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication said.

He said, “It is also more cumbersome when this paralysis is life long and not reversible. I can’t emphasize enough how critically important it is to ensure that each and every child is vaccinated during the upcoming polio campaign during the month of January.”

Sewage water samples are collected on a monthly basis from 58 sampling sites across the country under the supervision of relevant provincial health departments and tested by state-of-the-art Regional Polio Reference Laboratory housed at the National Institute of Health, Islamabad. The genetic sequencing further guides the programme in undertaking requisite response activities.

“Pakistan stands the best chance of getting rid of the crippling virus forever. Every Pakistani must now assume the role of a polio worker to ensure vaccination of all children during every campaign," Babar Bin Atta urged.