Islamabad, January 13, 2024 – Wild poliovirus has been found in three more sewage samples, taking the total of positive samples in the country in 2023 to 115.

The Regional Reference Laboratory for Polio Eradication at the National Institute of Health stated that the virus was found in an environmental sample collected from Rawalpindi on December 11, one sample collected from Islamabad on December 12 and one collected from Karachi East on December 13.

According to the lab, all samples belonged to the imported cluster.

Federal Minister for Health Dr Nadeem Jan said that Pakistan’s Polio Eradication Programme maintains the world’s largest and most sensitive poliovirus surveillance system, which has been instrumental in the swift detection of the virus. However, he added that the detections also means that children remain at constant risk from a disability-causing disease.

“This virus targets vulnerable children, especially those with weak immunity, and can cause irreversible paralysis,” said Dr Jan. “Mass vaccination campaigns are designed to vaccinate all children in the country to them protect from this disease. I urge parents and caregivers to understand the real threat that polio poses and make sure that their children are repeatedly vaccinated with polio drops.”

Coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Center for Polio Eradication Dr Shahzad Baig said that nearly 95 percent of the 115 positive environmental samples reported so far in 2023 have contained the imported virus.

“We conducted multiple polio campaigns in response to the multiple detections of the virus,” he said, adding: “We have a comprehensive plan in place for 2024 as well and will be beginning the year with a nationwide campaign from January 8 to vaccinate over 44.3 million children under five against polio.”

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, except for the two endemic countries of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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