ISLAMABAD - Four more polio cases have surfaced in Pakistan taking the toll of this year to 25, reveals official data.

According to reports available with The Nation, the National Institute of Health (NIH) has confirmed four more polio cases – two on February 29 and two on March 4 - in three provinces including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Sindh. According to the polio map, the two cases confirmed in February were from Karak, KP, and Naushero Feroz, Sindh.

Meanwhile, the two latest cases have been reported from Shikarpur, Sindh and Sohbatpur, Baluchistan. The NIH lab reports reveal that in Shikarpur Sindh, the case was confirmed in a three-year-old girl from tehsil Khanpur.

Alarmingly, in Sohbatpur the virus was confirmed in a 7-year-old boy hailing from tehsil Manjhipur, Union Council Khudaidad. The socioeconomic background of the child was poor and he does not have travel history.

As per the information available on the official website of the Polio Eradication Program (PEP), in the ongoing year 12 cases of the wild polio have been confirmed from KP, 08 from Sindh, 04 from Baluchistan and one from Punjab.

Meanwhile, nine cases of cVDPV2 (Type two) of 2020 have been also confirmed.  The official data said that eight cases of Type-2 were confirmed in KP and one in Punjab.

The toll of wild polio cases of 2019 reached 146 while 22 Type-2 cases were also confirmed.

National Coordinator National Emergency Operations Center (NEOC) Dr. Rana Muhammad Safdar told The Nation the Peshawar incident occurred in 2019 resulted in suspension of national campaigns on polio which created an immunity gap.

He said that the national campaigns were started in December last year and there was 10-month immunity gap while around six million children were born in ten months which were not protected.

He said that other than newborns the children of above age were deprived of building their immunity due to suspension of the campaigns.

“When you add these numbers there are around 10 to 15 million children who are vulnerable to virus due to suspension of campaigns in 2019,” he said.

He said that again national campaigns have been started and next campaign is going to be held in April to cover wild polio cases.

About the confirmation of virus in 84-month-old boy, Dr. Rana Safdar remarked that when virus is around it can affect children more than five years as well, however, if immunity is good, paralysis is mild.

About the vaccine drive polio (Type-2), he said that it is a misconception that Type-2 occurs because of vaccine inefficiency.  He added that this virus has also been reported in 14 other countries also.

The NC NEOC said that after the eradication of Type-2 it was globally decided to subtract this vaccine from the dose, but the immunity of children against Type-2 became low.

“This type involves the risk of mutation if it remains in the environment and if it remains for years at any place,” he said.

Dr. Safdar said that its outbreak was reported in Africa, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Pakistan as well.