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    Polio Reappears In Pakistan After 15 Month Gap

    ChildrenEarly childhood developmentPolio Reappears In Pakistan After 15 Month Gap
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    Polio Reappears In Pakistan After 15 Month Gap

    The type 1 wild polio virus (WPVI) was confirmed in a toddler from the North Waziristan district of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The same strain of the virus was also detected in Malawi, over two years after the entire African continent was declared polio free.

    By Ghulam Akbar Marwat

    Pakistan reported its first polio case after a gap of 15 months on Friday. The reappearance of the virus has dashed the country’s hopes of eradicating the crippling virus.

    The positive test was confirmed by the Islamabad based National Institute of Health. The type 1 wild virus (WPVI) had infected one-year-old child from the North Waziristan district of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

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    There were 22 polio cases reported from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2020; however, there was no case in 2021.

    Earlier in April, Pakistan Polio Laboratory (PPL) had also confirmed the polio virus presence in the environmental samples collected from the Bannu district. PPL, charged with collecting environmental samples from different areas of the country said that the viruses found in Bannu samples as well as North Waziristan’s toddler were largely identical.

    Pakistan had reported its last polio case from Qilla Abdullah area of Balochistan in January 2021.

    The country’s health secretary, Aamir Ashraf said that the positive case discovered Friday had dented Pakistan’s polio eradication efforts and elsewhere across the globe. However, he said that health authorities have taken emergency steps in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa following the detection of the positive environmental samples. He referred to the health authorities deploying teams at federal and provincial levels for the probing of this case.

    Polio in Pakistan World immunization week

    In addition to this, emergency polio campaigns were also being launched to contain the spread of the virus.

    Confirming the presence of the polio virus in southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Dr Shahzad Baig, the coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Center (set up specifically for polio in the country), said that the finding has pointed to the necessity of vaccinating every child.

    WHO has called for observing the world immunisation week starting 24 April.

    Spreading to Africa

    Besides, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Malawi is the third country in the world where polio virus exists.

    On 17 February 2022, a WHO update announced the detection of wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) in Malawi. Sequencing and an analysis of the virus from an infected child was conducted by the National Institute of Communicable Disease (NICD) in South Africa, and later by the US CDC confirmed that the current isolate in Malawi was genetically linked to a Pakistan sequence detected in the Sindh province.

    This was a huge setback for the African nation, over two years after the continent was declared free of indigenous wild polio in August 2020. Africa had not reported a single instance of the virus for five years, leading to the continent being declared free of polio. Indeed, the last clinically confirmed WPV case in Malawi was reported in 1992.

    The Malawi government has announced a polio epidemic in the country following the detection of the virus on February 17.

     

    Ghulam Akbar Marwat works for the Tribal News Network in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan.

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