Islamabad, February 11, 2024 – Two environmental samples from Sibi district of Balochistan and Peshawar district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have tested positive for wild poliovirus type 1.

The virus was isolated from a sewage sample collected from Sibi on January 15 and another sample collected from Peshawar on January 22, the Regional Reference Laboratory for Polio Eradication at NIH has notified, adding that both samples contained the imported YB3A cluster.

Federal Minister for Health Dr Nadeem Jan said the continued detection of the imported virus is highly concerning and the Polio Eradication Programme has formulated a comprehensive plan to halt its spread.

“Following the first nationwide vaccination drive of 2024 in January, we will now be conducting another national polio campaign from February 26 to vaccinate more than 45 million children under five and protect them from polio,” said Dr Jan.

Urging parents and communities to understand the threat of poliovirus, Secretary for Health Iftikhar Ali Shallwani said that this opportunistic virus targets vulnerable children irrespective of which side of the border they may be.

He added: “Communities and families play a huge role in protecting children from this paralytic disease. Refusing the vaccine can place your child at risk of lifelong paralysis from polio. When you hear that knock on your door from polio workers, make sure that you get your child vaccinated.”

Coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Center for Polio Eradication Dr Shahzad Baig said following multiple detections of poliovirus in the environment, the Polio Programme has planned to conduct another national polio drive to boost children’s immunity.

“The oral polio vaccine provides the most effective protection from this disease, which is why we will be conducting several campaigns in 2024 to ensure that every child under the age of five receives multiple doses and remains safe from polio,” he said.

No polio cases have been detected in Pakistan so far this year, however, 30 environmental samples have tested positive for the virus.

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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