Two new cases of polio were reported by the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) for Polio Eradication from Bajaur, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Wednesday. This brings the number of cases recorded in the country this year to eight.
“The identification of new cases is yet another reminder that long as polio virus exists anywhere in the country, no child is safe from being infected,” said Dr Rana Muhammad Safdar, the national coordinator for polio eradication.
According to the NEOC, the virus detected from sewage samples in Bajaur during the last few months managed to infect a five-year-old girl and a seven-year-old boy. The polio virus was isolated from stool samples of both children who presented symptoms of facial palsy and slight weakness, as multiple doses of Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) had boosted their immunity.
“Vaccinating all children in every campaign is important to attain full immunity against the polio virus,” said Dr Safdar. “Fortunately, children who are vaccinated against polio multiple times are able to fight the virus. The more doses of the polio vaccine a child receives, the higher its chances of escaping lifelong paralysis.”
According to him, there is no cure for polio once the damage is done. “It is entirely safe to give multiple doses of the vaccine, in fact, that is how the vaccine is designed. More doses will offer better protection against polio virus, and that is why it is important that all children – regardless of vaccination status – are reached every time, during each vaccination round,” said Dr Safdar.
Pakistan remains one of the three last countries in the world, alongside Afghanistan and Nigeria, with polio. However, we have made significant progress in eradicating the disease. Polio cases have declined from 20,000 a year in the early 1990s to eight last year.
So far in 2018, eight polio cases have been reported — three from Dukki in Balochistan, one from Karachi, one from Charsadda, one from the Khyber tribal district of KP and two cases from Bajaur.
Of these eight cases, five children were vaccinated multiple times, which protected them from developing lifelong paralysis, including the two most recent cases from Bajaur. Meanwhile, the three children from Dukki were severely under-immunised and hence did not developed immunity against the virus. Two are paralysed for life and one child – an 18-month old boy – died as a result of the paralysis of his breathing muscles.