PESHAWAR: Pakistan reported on Friday the first polio case in 15 months in North Waziristan, prompting Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to order a strategy to eradicate the crippling disease from the country.
“A 15-month-old boy was paralysed by poliovirus in the first such case in 15 months. This is the third case of wild polio to be recorded globally in 2022,” read a statement issued by the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme.
According to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa polio team, the province had faced a similar situation when it reported a case after more than a year of reporting none or a single case.
The official handout added that the type-1 wild poliovirus was confirmed in the child from North Waziristan on 22 April 2022 by the national polio laboratory at the NIH, Islamabad, with the onset of paralysis on 9 April. “The Pakistan polio laboratory also confirmed detection of a positive environmental sample collected on 5 April 2022, from Bannu district of the same province. Both these viruses are closely related to each other,” it read.
Pakistan had reported one case last year with onset on January 27, 2021, in Killa Abdullah, Balochistan.
“This is, of course, a tragedy for the child and his family and it is also very unfortunate both for Pakistan and polio eradication efforts all over the world. We are disappointed but not deterred,” Health Secretary Aamir Ashraf said.
“The case has appeared in Southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where the poliovirus was detected in the environment late last year and where an emergency action plan is already being implemented,” he said, “the National and Provincial Polio Emergency Operations Centres have deployed teams to conduct a full investigation of the recent case, while emergency immunization campaigns are underway to prevent further spread of the wild poliovirus in Pakistan.”
National Emergency Operations Centre Coordinator Dr Shahzad Baig said: “This validates the programme’s concerns about virus circulation in Southern KP and strengthens our resolve to reach every child with the polio vaccine.”
To address the challenges in Southern KP, he added that the government and global polio partners had already initiated an emergency action plan to address the challenges in this part of the province.
In 2020, KP reported 22 cases, while no wild poliovirus cases were recorded in the province last year.
Taking notice of the case, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif summoned a report from the authorities concerned and directed them to formulate of strategy to eradicate the crippling disease from the country.
The prime minister has also summoned a meeting of the National Task Force for Polio Eradication on Monday.
Moreover, Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel stressed the need for tackling the virus on war footing basis and said the government has also formed a plan in this regard.
“I think everyone and people from every walk of life have to play role in order to end this disease,” he said in a video statement.