Health Minister says Pakistan is maintaining the highest standard of polio surveillance

Islamabad, 8 JUNE 2023 – Karachi’s first detection of wild poliovirus in 2023 has been confirmed in an environmental sample from Sohrab Goth.

According to the Pakistan Polio Laboratory at the National Institutes of Health, the sample was collected on May 15 and its genetic sequencing is still awaited. The last positive sample in Karachi was detected in August 2022 from Landhi, district Malir.

Federal Minister for Health Abdul Qadir Patel has said that Pakistan is committed to eradicating polio and ensuring a healthier future for children.

“The swift detection of the virus in the environment highlights that we are maintaining the highest standard of polio surveillance, but it also means children are at constant risk.”

He added that polio eradication is a collective national responsibility and parents must ensure repeated polio vaccination and essential immunization for their children to boost their immunity.

Dr Shahzad Baig, Coordinator for the National Emergency Operations Centre for Polio Eradication, said the Programme is well-prepared to respond to any virus detection anywhere in the country.

He added: “Poliovirus moves with people. We are taking all steps necessary to ensure that we vaccinate children at all opportunities and eliminate the virus wherever we find it.”

Karachi, among the most populous cities in the world and home to communities from across Pakistan, is a historic polio reservoir and remains among areas categorized by the programme at high risk of wild poliovirus transmission.

The virus detection in Karachi is not unexpected given the frequent population movement between the city and the rest of the country.

The Polio Programme has successfully contained the virus in the southern districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa despite the virus being detected in several areas, highlighting the strength and sensitivity of the virus surveillance network across Pakistan and success of vaccination campaigns.

Note for the Editor: Polio is a highly infectious and incurable disease caused by poliovirus, which mainly affects children under the age of five. The virus invades the nervous system and can cause paralysis or even death in some cases. There is no cure for polio, repeated vaccination is the most effective way to protect children. The polio vaccine has protected millions of children from polio, allowing almost all countries in the world to become polio-free. Pakistan and Afghanistan remain the only two endemic countries in the world.

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