LAHORE - Environmental samples from Multan have tested positive for the third consecutive month, confirming the deadly polio virus is very much there to cripple the coming generation.
Multan is among seven high risk districts alongside Lahore, Rawalpindi, Muzaffargarh, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rajanpur and Rahim Yar Khan from where circulation of polio virus is being reported for the last many months.
Though environmental samples taken from these districts have been tested positive time and again but Multan is the only one from where circulation of polio virus has been reported for three consecutive months, July, August and September.
Institute of Public Health has conveyed to the Punjab Government that environmental samples taken from sewerage of Suraj Miani in September this year were carrying polio virus.
Positive samples indicate that polio virus is circulating in the sewerage water passing through the nullahs of the community, thus rendering children of the city at a risk of getting polio .
Confirming reports of detection of polio virus in sewerage of Multan for three months in a row, senior officials stressed the need for vaccinating children at homes, on the move and in schools.
“No immunization campaign has been carried out in Multan from June to August. This may be the reason behind positive samples. It is a matter of concern that the last positive sample was taken after immunization campaign in September,” he said.
“In this situation where samples have been tested positive, health teams will be sent to every community to vaccinate children,” one official said.
“Health department may have to launch additional rounds of vaccination which means repeated polio campaigns,” he said adding that repeated dozes were necessary so that a child develops a comprehensive and strong immunity system.
“It’s like building a strong wall of bricks against the disease”, he said adding “this is the reason that several polio campaigns are launched in the country during a year so that not even a single child misses a polio doze,” he added.
According to research findings, it is imperative to administer OPV to over 90 per cent of children during all the campaigns. “If the child is not given OPV the presence of virus in the environment may affect him,” he said.
Meanwhile, following the lab confirmation of Punjab’s first polio case of 2015, a team of experts led by Punjab’s Director Expanded Program on Immunization Dr Munir Ahmed visited the Lehr Sultan Pura Union Council in Choa Saidan Shah, Chakwal. The team comprises experts from WHO, Unicef and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The team visited the area and found that the child, Farhan, age 71 months, had received more than 10 dozes of immunization. The six-year old Farhan was diagnosed with arthritis initially and as a potential polio case, his sample was collected for lab tests.
The test confirmed presence of polio virus but found that due to necessary immunization dozes, it did not cause fatal ailments as such and the child was seen recovering. This also showed that virus circulation was present in the environment and posed an imminent danger to other children with weak immunity.
Dr Munir Ahmed shared that the coverage of the Union Council in last SIAs was found to be above 90 per cent. However due to presence of virus in the environment, a strong case response in Chakwal and adjacent areas will be conducted.
The team found that the area is host to sizeable migrant population from Sawat, Mardan, Qila Abdullah in Balochistan and polio reservoir areas in the country. Whereas the movement of the population from these areas is a continuous challenge, the incident calls for a strong case response and vigilance related to movement of visiting population.
This is Punjab’s first polio case in the year 2015 and highlights the challenges that the country faces in polio eradication. Out of a total of 306 cases in 2014, Punjab accounted for just 4 cases. In the year 2015, Pakistan has had 38 cases so far with this being Punjab’s first case, although this has not resulted in paralysis as is the case normally with most polio cases.
Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only countries battling polio now with Nigeria being able to exclude its name from the list only last month.