NewsDesk @bactiman63

Wild poliovirus has been detected in sewage samples from Peshawar and Hangu districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Poliovirus Image/CDC

The virus was found in an environmental sample collected from Naray Khuwar site in Peshawar on April 10 and in another collected from Civil Hospital-Jani Chowk site in Hangu on April 10. According to the Pakistan Polio Laboratory at the National Institute of Health, the two detected viruses are genetically linked to poliovirus that was found in the environment in Nangarhar, Afghanistan in January this year.

Federal Minister for Health Abdul Qadir Patel has said that Pakistan and Afghanistan are fighting the battle against polio and will continue to work together to eradicate it.

“As the only two endemic countries, the risk of cross-border transmission is ever-present. It a cause of concern, but this prompt detection is most crucial to enable us to take the necessary steps to protect children from polio,” he said.

Urging parents to ensure polio vaccination, the minister said, “The presence of poliovirus in our environment means our children are constantly at risk. To protect them from lifelong disability, it is critical for parents and caregivers to vaccinate their children in the upcoming May campaign and in every campaign.”

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Dr Shahzad Baig, the coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) for Polio Eradication, said the virus is known to move with people and this detection is not unexpected.

He added that virus genetically linked to poliovirus in Nangarhar, Afghanistan was earlier detected in an environmental sample from Lahore in January as well, but the Programme worked tirelessly and successfully prevented its spread to any other district.

Dr Shahzad Baig said: “We are working with NEOC Afghanistan and the provincial EOC to further strengthen cross-border coordination, plug any gaps and ensure quality vaccination at all border crossings. We are confident that we will prevent any further spread of this virus as well.”

Pakistan and Afghanistan will be conducting a synchronized vaccination campaign during May to increase children’s immunity. The campaign in Pakistan will begin on May 15 in 78 districts, including Peshawar and Hangu and union councils bordering Afghanistan, to vaccinate 23.55 million children under five, while the campaign in Afghanistan will begin on May 14.

Pakistan has reported one human case and five environmental samples positive for wild poliovirus so far in 2023.