ISLAMABAD, 31 AUGUST 2022 – Two more children have been paralyzed by the wild poliovirus in southern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. 

The affected children include a 16-year-old boy from Lakki Marwat and a two-year-old boy from North Waziristan, making it the 2nd case from Lakki Marwat, the 15th case from North Waziristan, and the 16th and 17th case respectively from Pakistan at large this year. 

Both children had onset of paralysis on 9 August, the Pakistan’s National Polio Laboratory at the National Institute of Health Islamabad confirmed on Wednesday, 31st August. The teenage boy is suffering from weakness in his left leg, while the affected child in North Waziristan had generalized body weakness and passed away later on. 

“These two more cases are both concerning and saddening. As we saw recently with the polio case in the US, that while children under five are most at risk of this virus, people of any age can contract polio,” said Federal Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel. “It is crucial to understand that the only protection from polio is vaccination, and this reinforces the importance of routine immunization during childhood.”  

“Polio will keep haunting us until we interrupt transmission,” said Federal Health Secretary Dr. Muhammad Fakhre Alam. “The case of the 16-year-old boy shows how robust Pakistan’s virus detection network is, because it highlights that we can identify polio cases in children outside the usually expected age,” he said.

National Emergency Operations Centre Coordinator Dr. Shahzad Baig expressed his concerns about the spread of wild poliovirus as millions of people in the country are displaced. “The scale of the current calamity is absolutely devastating. As part of the polio programme, our network of health workers is here to support in every way we can, but I am deeply concerned about the virus taking a foothold as millions of people leave their homes and look for refuge elsewhere.” 

Balochistan, parts of southern Punjab and 23 districts of Sindh were unable to hold a vaccination drive as floods swept away homes and villages around the country. Despite the extreme climatic conditions, polio teams reached children in all accessible areas.  

“I am grateful to our polio teams for braving extreme rains in areas of Punjab, Karachi, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan, and Islamabad and completing the campaign there. They are our saviors, protecting countless children from life-long paralysis,” the health minster said.  

Note for the Editor: Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by poliovirus mainly affecting children under the age of five years. It invades the nervous system and can cause paralysis or even death. While there is no cure for polio, vaccination is the most effective way to protect children from this disease. Repeated immunisations have protected millions of children from polio, allowing almost all countries in the world to become polio-free, besides the two endemic countries of Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

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