Pakistan jumps into action fearing ‘polio’ travel ban

13:36 May 05, 2014 Health

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has spun into action fearing WHO restrictions on passengers travelling abroad without poliovirus inoculation certification, Samaa reported.

According to sources, Ministry of Health has called an “emergency” meeting next week to chalk out a plan to head off a poliovirus vaccination related international travel ban.

World Health Organization (WHO), after a recently held meeting, had said that following several days of closed-door discussions, it would decide whether to declare the new spread of polio a "Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC)" that could require measures such as travel restrictions.

The UN agency’s International Health Regulations’ (IHR) Emergency Committee has already warned Pakistan over its failure to completely check the spread of virus as more and more cases were being reported from across the country every day.

The sources in the national health department told Samaa that the ministry had decided to make 'polio immunization certificate' mandatory before international travel.

Moreover, special counters will be set up at all the airports in this regard.

Polio, a crippling and potentially fatal viral disease that mainly affects children under the age of five, has come close to being beaten as the result of a 25-year effort.

The number of recorded cases worldwide has fallen from 350,000 in 1988 to 406 in 2013, according to WHO data. Polio is currently endemic in three countries, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, down from 125 in 1988.

"However, wild poliovirus continues to spread internationally from both endemic and re-infected countries," the WHO said.

"Between January and April 2014, in what is usually the low season for poliovirus transmission, three new international wild poliovirus importation events have been detected, one each in Asia (Pakistan to Afghanistan), the Middle East (Syria to Iraq) and central Africa (Cameroon to Equatorial Guinea)."

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