Islamabad, March 14, 2024 – A child has been paralyzed by wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) in Dera Bugti district of Balochistan, marking the first polio case of 2024.

The Regional Reference Laboratory at the National Institute of Health notified on Thursday that the virus was detected in stool samples collected from a 30-months-old boy from Sui tehsil of Dera Bugti.

The child had onset of weakness in both lower limbs on February 22, and the isolated virus belongs to the imported YB3A cluster.

Expressing his sadness, Federal Health Secretary Iftikhar Ali Shallwani said: “This virus has paralyzed another Pakistan, reminding us once again that until we eradicate this virus, our children and children across the world will remain at persistent risk from poliomyelitis.”

The health secretary said that poliovirus attacks children whose immunity is not sufficient enough to fight off polio infection, therefore, it is crucial for parents to understand this fact and make sure that all their children are vaccinated at every opportunity.

Dr Shahzad Baig, Coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Centre for Polio Eradication, said that a detailed case investigation will be launched immediately to identify the origins of the virus that caused the infection, adding that two positive environmental samples have already been reported from Dera Bugti.  

“We have already conducted two nationwide polio vaccination campaigns in 2024 vaccinating more than 45.4 million children under five and following this detection the Programme has planned a case response starting from March 26 in affected districts to prevent the virus from harming more children.”

This is the first polio case reported from Pakistan in 2024 and the first in Dera Bugti in nearly 13 years. Last year, six polio cases were reported in the country.

Separately, 10 environmental samples collected during February 19 to February 21 have also tested positive for WPV1 from six districts – five from Karachi East and one each from Karachi South, Nasirabad, Quetta, Dera Bugti, Dir Lower, bringing the total number of positive samples to 56 in 2024.  

Note for 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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