Three new cases of polio detected

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Three new poliovirus cases have been found, increasing the overall tally so far to 94 this year. The polio coordinator at National Emergency Operation Centre, Dr Rana Safdar, confirmed to Dawn the emergence of the new cases.

An official of Polio Virology Laboratory at the National Institute of Health (NIH), requesting anonymity, told Dawn that the new cases were reported from Larkana, Dera Ismail Khan and Lakki Marwat districts. All the children are male, he added.

According to the official, two of the three affected children had been given polio vaccine.

Giving further details, he said: “In Larkana’s Tehsil Dhokri Union Council Karani [Sindh province], a nine-month-old child has been infected with the virus. The date of onset was Nov 9 and the child had received four doses of the vaccine.

“In Dera Ismail Khan’s Tehsil Parova Union Council Kirri Shamozai [Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province], an 18-month-old child fell prey to polio. The date of onset was Nov 16 and the child had received seven doses of the vaccine.

“The four-month-old baby infected with polio in Lakki Marwat’s Union Council Titter Khel [Khyber Pakhtunkhwa] did not get any polio vaccine.”

Thus far, 68 cases have been reported from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 14 from Sindh, seven from Balochistan and five from Punjab.

Consequently, the government has called for a meeting of the recently formed National Strategic Advisory Group (NSAG) comprising members of the opposition parties who had worked on polio eradication programmes during their tenures.

Polio coordinator Dr Safdar claimed that the polio programme had started with renewed efforts to control the virus. He said that during the current year a third-party assessment was also conducted to look into the issue.

“After the assessment, it was suggested that special attention should be given to 40 high-risk union councils. We will also look into the situation of water, sanitation and hygiene,” he said.

The spokesperson for the Ministry of National Health Services, Sajid Shah, while talking to Dawn, said they hoped that the poliovirus would be controlled in Pakistan by 2020.

On Nov 23, the government established the NSAG having representatives from leading political parties — the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Pakistan Peoples Party — and some other parties.

The broad-based body was constituted in consultation with Prime Minister Imran Khan and is led by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza.

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