‘Parts of Sindh, KP transmitting polio virus’
LAHORE, Feb 12: The Prime Minister’s Polio Monitoring and Coordination Cell, the World Health Organization and Unicef have confirmed that parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Karachi’s Gadap Town and Hyderabad are transmitting polio virus to other parts of the country.
A report also says a total of 58 polio cases were recorded during 2012, a massive reduction of 71 per cent in the number of cases compared to 198 cases in 2011.
The WHO evaluates the performance of a country in its fight against polio through the reduction in the number of polio cases and environmental sampling results that are collected from sewage water of major cities in the country, among other indicators, a press release issued on Tuesday said.
“Apart from reduction in polio cases, there is also a significant decrease in the proportion of positive environmental samples compared to 2011 as in 2012; only 37 per cent samples had wild polio virus isolated compared to 66 per cent in 2011,” stated Dr Elias Durry, the Emergency Coordinator for Polio Eradication at the WHO.
Punjab recorded only two polio cases during the last year, coupled with promising environmental sewage water sampling results showing no transmission after August 2012; KP had 27 polio cases in the year, more than any other province, in addition to showing persistent polio virus transmission throughout the year.
Fata reported 20 polio cases; Sindh and Balochistan reported four cases each, and Gilgit-Baltistan reported a single polio case last year.
The Pakistan Polio Eradication Initiative also noted that concern over the active polio virus transmission in parts of Gadap Town in Karachi and central KP areas based on sewage water results remained the biggest.
Insecurity in these areas further complicates the situation for polio eradication authorities. District Hyderabad in Sindh also showed persistent indigenous wild polio circulation, through positive sewage samples.
Regarding Balochistan, according to the WHO, after recording negative results of sewage water samples for almost a year, two consecutive positive samples for polio virus circulation in the provincial capital Quetta were found during November and December in 2012.
However, scientific analysis of the viruses has shown that viruses were new introduction from Sohrab Goth (Gadap) in Karachi.
“This is a loud indication that in order to permanently interrupt polio virus transmission across the country, all the areas especially the ones with active and persistent polio virus transmission zones need to clear,” stated Dr Elias Durry.
During the last year, Pakistan also achieved great success in its fight against the P3 strain of the polio virus as only a single case of P3 polio virus was recorded from Khyber Agency in April 2012 and recent sewage water samples collected by the WHO from across the country do not show any P3 strain virus circulation.
“Pakistan has shown significant progress in 2012 owing to the strongest of political commitments by the highest leadership in the country. Our resolve was equal to the challenge. With strict accountability, zero tolerance for under performance and strong monitoring mechanisms, there has been a marked improvement. We hope to carry forward the task with the same zeal and commitment during the year 2013,” stated Shahnaz Wazir Ali, PM’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication.
Pakistan also recorded a major decrease in the number of families refusing polio drops across the country. “More than 35,208 families stopped opposing polio drops during the last year as 45,122 children could not be covered due to refusals by the end of 2012 whereas this number stood at 80,330 during the first national polio round held during January last year.”
For 2013, the Pakistan Polio Eradication Initiative notes that the principal challenges are the delay and suspension of polio campaigns over the past three months, resulting from the tragic murders of polio teams in various locations, coupled with gaining access to 260,000 children in North and South Waziristan, who have remained unvaccinated since July 2012.