Outbreak of polio feared over next few months
KARACHI, June 20: While only three cases of polio have been reported across the province since the year’s beginning, an upsurge is feared during the next four months, said Dr Rizwana Memon, a senior polio officer, while speaking at a workshop on Wednesday.
The media workshop on healthcare issues of children-polio was jointly organised by the Karachi Press Club, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) and a non-governmental organisation, Mishal Pakistan.
Dr Memon, who is deputy project manager of the expanded programme on immuisation in Sindh, appealed to all stakeholders to remain alert this summer as the next few months were critical as far as a polio outbreak was concerned.
She said the fact that Sindh had reported only three out of 22 polio cases in the country was relatively a comfortable situation. “However, if we see the trend of new polio cases reporting in the previous years, it can be safely said that July to October are peak months for the spread of polio virus in the province,” she said.
To fight and eradicate the dreaded virus, there was a crucial need to remain cautious and continue with the serious efforts, she reiterated.
Combined efforts of all the stakeholders, including planners, field executers, vaccinators and volunteers, were required to achieve desired results, she said, expressing the hope that all children up to five years would be covered during the national polio immunisation campaign planned in July.
With the help of visual aid, she explained that Pakistan reported almost half of its total polio cases during the four months from July to October in 2009, 2010 and 2011. She said that Pakistan topped the list of three polio endemic countries, the other two being Afghanistan and Nigeria.
She was of the opinion that well-coordinated and concerted efforts were needed in high-risk areas to avert a polio outbreak. Towns such as Gadap, Baldia, Gulshan-i-Iqbal in Karachi were at the lower ebb as far as the presence of polio virus in the environmental sampling was concerned, she said. Sampling results had shown no presence of the virus in sewerage samples collected from Baldia this year, she said, adding that Gadap and Gulshan-i-Iqbal reported 29 per cent and six per cent presence of polio virus, respectively, in the environmental samples collected from there.
Replying to questions, Dr Memon said that sewage and drinking water served as the main reservoir of polio virus and as such the authorities concerned were required to improve the sanitation and hygiene conditions, particularly in the polio-infected parts of the province.
She said that supplemental additional doses, in addition to the three doses of routine immunisation against polio, were absolutely necessary
to be confident that a child was protected. It might not be possible at this stage to determine the immune status of each and every child, she said. But every child could be administered anti-polio drops in supplementary immunisation activities, she added.
The oral polio vaccine procured by Unicef was the only protection against polio and everyone of the stakeholders, including journalists, needed to eliminate misconceptions related to the polio immunisation and the dreaded virus.
Senior journalist Amir Zia talked on reporting on children issues and Pakistan media needed to ensure all care and sensitivity while bringing the issues like polio into public debate.
In his presentation on health indicators, chief executive officer of NGO Mishal said that an environment was needed for expeditious exercises to meet the targets set under the UN millennium development goals.
President of Karachi Press Club Tahir Hasan Khan and Puruesh Chaudhary of the Centre for International Media Ethics also spoke.