Health Minister says Pakistan and Afghanistan are together in their fight against polio
ISLAMABAD, AUGUST 30, 2023 – Wild poliovirus has been detected in the sewage system in Lahore, the National Institute of Heath (NIH) confirmed on Wednesday.
This is the third positive sample from District Lahore this year.
The Pakistan Polio Laboratory at the NIH, that is also the WHO Regional Reference Laboratory, said the virus is genetically linked to a virus detected in Kandahar, Afghanistan in May.
Health Minister Dr Nadeem Jan said that Pakistan and Afghanistan are together in the fight against polio. “Thankfully, we have seen a sharp reduction in the numbers of children paralyzed by polio from last year to now, but the continued detection of the virus remains a cause of concern,” he said.
“We are vigilantly monitoring the situation and will work more closely together with Afghanistan. Neither Pakistan nor Afghanistan can be free of polio until both countries can interrupt transmission,” Dr Jan added.
This new detection from Lahore takes the total number of positive environmental (sewage) samples in Pakistan to 17. Two children have also been left paralyzed by polio this year, both of them from Bannu.
Dr Shahzad Baig, Coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC), said the samples being detected with genetic links to Afghanistan have been on the rise, but the programme has successfully managed to ensure that the virus does not establish circulation.
“Our vigilant virus surveillance system has consistently been swift in identifying threats, and we have adopted a proactive and robust approach to all detections, prioritizing the health and safety of every child," Dr Baig stated.
The last polio case from Lahore was in July 2020, but the virus has been periodically detected in its sewage water. In 2022, four environmental samples were found positive for wild poliovirus in Lahore district.
The last polio vaccination campaign in District Lahore was conducted from 15 – 21 May, while a nationwide campaign will begin from the last week of September.
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 crippling 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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