Health minister says viruses infect children irrespective of borders, urges parents to ensure repeated polio vaccination for their children.

Islamabad, July 26, 2023 – An environmental sample collected from Peshawar has tested positive for wild poliovirus.

According to the Pakistan Polio Laboratory at the National Institute of Health, the virus has been detected in a sewage sample collected from Naray Khuwar site on July 4 and is genetically linked to poliovirus in circulation in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Federal Minister for Health Abdul Qadir Patel has said that viruses know no borders and infect children without discrimination.  “It is imperative that parents and caregivers get their children vaccinated in all polio campaigns and ensure that their routine immunizations are also complete for stronger immunity,” he said.

The minister added that the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme is in close coordination with the Afghanistan Polio Eradication Programme and the two countries are working together on all levels to curb cross-border transmission.

Dr Shahzad Baig, Coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Centre for Polio Eradication, said detections of poliovirus in the environment are highly concerning, but not unexpected since Peshawar is among the major cities that see widespread population movement from across the border.

He added: “Poliovirus is being detected in environmental samples since January, but the Polio Programme has successfully prevented it from establishing circulation. We will continue to conduct high-quality campaigns and strategize to ensure that it remains unable to find a home in under-immunized children.”

This is the fifth positive environmental sample collected from Peshawar so far this year and the fourth consecutive from this site.

A vaccination campaign will begin in 61 districts of the country from August 1 to immunize more than 7.7 million children under five years of age against poliovirus, during which Peshawar will also be covered from August 7 onwards.

Pakistan has reported only one polio case so far this year and 12 positive environmental samples, while five cases have been reported in Afghanistan along with 32 positive environmental samples.

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. Each time a child under the age of five is vaccinated, their protection against the virus is increased. 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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