ISLAMABAD: Pakistan reported its second case of wild poliovirus in 2022 after new type-1 wild poliovirus (WPV1) was confirmed in a two-year-old girl from North Waziristan.
The child had an onset of paralysis on April 14. Pakistan National Polio Laboratory at the National Institute of Health confirmed that the poliovirus was confirmed on April 29, 2022.
Earlier on April 22, a 15-month boy had been confirmed with the disease. Both children are from North Waziristan, southern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP), 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 KP, 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,” said Health Minister Qadir Patel. “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.”
“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, adding, “After Eid, I will be visiting the province myself to monitor the situation on the ground.”
Southern KP 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. Following this, an emergency action plan was initiated in January this year that is allowing the programme to reach more children than ever before and protect them from the paralytic virus before it affects 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 vaccinate their children if they are travelling from one area to another,” Health Secretary Aamir Ashraf Khawaja said.
As a response to the last case detection, an emergency vaccination campaign was launched on April 28 in southern KP.
In 2020, the province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa reported 22 cases, while no wild poliovirus cases were recorded in the province last year. In 2021, Pakistan reported one case on 27 January 2021 in Killa Abdullah, Balochistan.
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 2 and 3 have been eradicated globally, while WPV1 cases are at a historic low. Pakistan remains one of only two polio-endemic countries along with Afghanistan.
Bill Gates talks to COAS Bajwa
Meanwhile, Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates appreciated Pakistan Army for supporting the national polio drive, ensuring proper reach and coverage, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said Saturday.
During a telephonic conversation with Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Bill Gates also appreciated Pakistan’s success against COVID-19 despite resource constraints.
The COAS attributed the success to a national response, executed through the mechanism of NCOC which allowed optimisation of resources.
A brief statement issued by the military’s media wing said that COAS Gen Bajwa said it was a national cause and credit goes to all involved in the process.
The COAS appreciated the efforts towards this noble cause and assured him continued cooperation, the ISPR said.