Second polio case of 2022 confirmed in N Waziristan

A second case of poliovirus was confirmed in North Waziristan on Friday after the crippling disease reared its ugly head in the country on April 22 after a lull of around 15 months.

On April 22, a 15-month-old boy had been confirmed with wild polio with an onset of paralysis on April 9. And on Friday, a two-year-old girl was paralysed by the disease. The child had an onset of paralysis on April 14.

According to the Pakistan National Polio Laboratory at the National Institute of Health, the new type-1 wild poliovirus (WPV1) was confirmed from North Waziristan.

Both children are from North Waziristan, Southern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and belong to adjacent Union Councils of Mir Ali. The WPV1 cases are genetically linked and belong to the same virus cluster, further validating the Pakistan Polio Programme’s concerns for Southern K-P, where continuous virus circulation has been detected.

“It is heartbreaking to learn that a two-year-old girl will be paralysed for the rest of her life by a virus that has been eliminated in most parts of the world,” Health Minister Qadir Patel said.

READ Pakistan reports second polio case in eight days

Southern K-P had been identified by the polio programme as the area most at risk after wild poliovirus was detected in environmental samples in the last quarter of 2021.“This is tragic for her family, for the community and all of us in Pakistan, but mostly for this child, who will live with an incurable disease that was entirely preventable.”

Following this, an emergency action plan was initiated in January this year that was allowing the programme to reach more children than ever before and protect them from the paralytic virus before it affected more lives.

“The National and Provincial Polio Emergency Operations Centres are already conducting an emergency vaccination campaign following the confirmation of the case last week.

I strongly urge everyone travelling for Eid to have their children vaccinated if they are travelling from one area to another,” Health Secretary Aamir Ashraf Khawaja said.

“This is deeply sad for all of us in the polio programme. But we are resilient and unwilling to fail. While we will do whatever it takes to ensure that this little girl is the last child with wild polio, we fear that more children from the same area may be affected as the virus circulates,” National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) Coordinator Dr Shahzad Baig said.

As a response to the last case detection, an emergency vaccination campaign was launched on April 28 in Southern K-P.

In 2020, K-P reported 22 cases, while no wild poliovirus cases were recorded in the province last year. In 2021, Pakistan reported one case on January 27, 2021 in Killa Abdullah, Balochistan.

“I am directly in contact with the Emergency Operations Centre for polio. They remain highly vigilant and are urgently working to ensure that the virus does not spread outside this particular area. I am personally looking into the case and detailed investigations pertaining to it,” the health minister said.

“After Eid, I will be visiting the province myself to monitor the situation on ground.” The polio programme’s health workers on the frontline continue to reach children in North Waziristan despite challenging circumstances in hard-to-reach areas.

Wild poliovirus types II and III have been eradicated globally, while WPV1 cases are at an historic low. Pakistan remains one of only two polio-endemic countries along with Afghanistan.

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