Health Minister says viruses do not respect boundaries, urges parents to ensure repeated polio vaccination and complete routine immunization for their children

Islamabad, Sept 7, 2023 – Four environmental samples collected in August have tested positive for wild poliovirus. 

The virus was isolated from a sewage sample collected from Shaheen Muslim Town in Peshawar on August 17, from two samples collected from two tributaries of Naray Khuwar in Peshawar on August 22 and from a sample collected from a site in Karachi Keamari on August 17, the Pakistan Polio Laboratory at the National Institute of Health said on Wednesday.  

The lab, which also serves as the WHO Regional Reference Lab for poliovirus confirmed that genetic testing has linked the virus in all samples to the cluster circulating in Afghanistan.

Federal Health Minister Dr Nadeem Jan said the detection of the virus in multiple environmental samples is highly concerning because it means children are at consistent risk.

“Borders mean nothing to viruses; they move with people and infect the most vulnerable children,” he said. “Thorough epidemiological investigations will be held for each detection to identify the affected populations and plan swift responses to build immunity.”   

Dr Jan said Pakistan and Afghanistan are fighting this disease together, and urged parents to ensure that their children are up to date on routine immunization and receive the oral polio vaccine repeatedly, ensuring strong immunity to fight off infections.

“Every virus detection is a stark reminder of the collective responsibility we hold to protect our communities. I urge parents and caregivers to vaccinate their children in every immunization round and create awareness on the high risk that wild poliovirus poses to our children,” Federal Health Secretary Iftikhar Shallwani added.  

Peshawar has now reported 10 consecutive positive environmental samples since April, while this is the second positive sample reported from Karachi this year. 

Pakistan has reported 21 positive environmental samples overall, while two children have been confirmed to be paralyzed by wild polio in 2023.  

A vaccination campaign was held in Peshawar and Karachi from August 7 to 13 to vaccinate children under five. 

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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