QUETTA: Poliovirus linked to the city of Sukkur in Sindh Province has been found in Balochistan capital, setting alarms bells ringing for those concerned, a UNICEF official said on Monday. What is more alarming is that the virus was simultaneously detected in the city of Sukkur also.
The Balochistan government has called an emergency meeting and announced launching a special campaign in areas bordering Sindh Province.
“The wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) still exists in the provincial capital of Balochistan as samples collected from the city’s sewage system suggested the presence of virus,” UNICEF Communication Specialist Dr Jawahir Habib said.
She maintained that the World Health Organisation (WHO) had collected fresh sewage
samples on May 22 from three sites, including Jamia Salfia, Takhtani Bypass and the Sur Pul area of Kharotabad. She said that the samples were sent to a laboratory in Islamabad, and that samples collected from the Sur Pul area were tested positive for the WPV1.
“The virus reportedly found positive for polio has link with the city of Sukhur in Sindh Province,” she said.
Expressing grave concern over the existence of virus, she said that nomads coming from Sindh and other polio-endemic areas were serious threat to efforts against polio in Balochistan Province.
She said that a special campaign was launched in the city with the advent of summer to administer vaccine drops to every child entering the city from Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provinces.
“Balochistan is at great risk with 15,000 children entering Pakistan from Afghanistan every month,” she said, adding that recently poliovirus has been found in a 29-year-old girl in southern Afghanistan, posing serious threat to Balochistan areas bordering Afghanistan.
“It is a matter of grave concern that poliovirus has been found in environmental samples,” Health Secretary Arshad Bugti said. He recalled that because of provincial government and UNICEF’s firm endeavours, no case had been reported in Balochistan Province during the last 18 months. “Fearing transfer of virus from other polio endemic areas, we had established 48 transit camps at exit and entry points of the city,” the secretary added.
He said that a special campaign has been launched in areas bordering Sindh Province, including Naseerabad, Jaffarabad, Jhal Magsi and Dera Bugti.
Quetta is still under the looming threat of poliovirus though WHO, UNICEF and provincial government are striving hard to eliminate the crippling disease by employing all of available resources. In line with its commitment and responsibilities, the WHO collects samples from across the country on routine basis and despatch them to the National Institute of Health (NIH), Islamabad, for test.
Recently, the WHO has made polio vaccination certificate mandatory for each and every Pakistani passenger travelling abroad. A total of 75 cases have been reported from across the country during 2014 including 57 from FATA, 12 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and six from Sindh while no case has been reported from Balochistan and Punjab Provinces.
Meanwhile, health authorities in Sukkur are on high alert after detection of poliovirus in the city’s drainage system.
District Health Officer (DHO) Dr Mehmood Qureshi confirmed that the virus had been detected at a disposal pumping station but added that the district had been polio-free for the last couple of years. The last polio case was reported from Sukkur in 2010 when a large number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) had moved to the district for shelter. According to Dr Qureshi, they take samples from different pumping stations every couple of months and send them to Islamabad laboratory for test.
Last month’s samples were sent as per routine and that the samples taken from the Maka station were tested positive for poliovirus. He said that the Maka station collects drainage water from residential areas.
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