ISLAMABAD-Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme (PPEP) has to make extra efforts now to control the outbreak of type-2 (P2), which re-emerged after elimination from country, officials said on Friday.

Senior officials linked with polio eradication programme said that ‘a comprehensive’ policy will be required to control this outbreak which was earlier eliminated and country was fighting against only P1, wild polio virus now.

Officials said that World Health Organization (WHO) was investigating the outbreak of P2 after the cases were reported this year March.

“A larger investigation in entire country from Chitral to Karachi was started in which federal and provincial governments were coordinating with World Health Organization,” officials said.

Officials said that the investigations focused on negligence in vaccine administration and possibility of contamination of the polio vaccine.

“Contaminated samples taken from vaccine imported from India were made part of investigations,” officials said.

Officials said that the existence of P2 virus was confirmed from sewage sample taken from Islamabad and later samples were confirmed in Diamer, Gilgit-Baltistant areas.

“Cases in Diamer and GB were found in close vicinities,” officials said.

“If government confirms existence of “cVDPV” in type P2 it will be much bigger challenge to handle the programme,” officials said.

Former federal minister for National Health Services (NHS) Saira Afzal Tarar said that it is alarming that P2 virus has again emerged as this category was eliminated and reported to WHO in the previous government tenure.

She said that a dynamic team and coordinated efforts in previous government led to reduction of polio cases in the country.

Former minister also said that sitting government had to take forward the previous plan, but unfortunately it made it political which resulted in damaging the polio eradication efforts.

National Coordinator on PPEP Dr. Rana Safdar talking to The Nation said that “additional efforts will be made to eliminate P2, but it is not impossible,” he said.

He said that P2 is not a ‘wild virus’ and its outbreak is reported in 16 countries now.

He said that the P2 virus is found in environment and it could be eliminated in a couple of vigilant campaigns. Dr. Rana Safdar said that type-2, also called P2 was eliminated in April 2016 and its component was also removed from the polio vaccine.

“Vaccine availability is not an issue and special round-ups are taken for elimination of this type,” he said.

He said that 180,000 children were earlier immunised and 2 million will be immunised in upcoming campaign against P2.

It was alleged that government covered up 12 P2 polio cases and decided to launch a secret campaign against P2 virus.

All alleged cases resulted in paralysis of the children.

It was also alleged that former Focal Person of Prime Minister on Polio Program Babar Bin Atta allegedly decided not to disclose the cases, which he denied.

Atta when contacted though denied giving version but referred his social media message in which he declared all allegations baseless upon him.

A media release issued by PPEP said that the Pakistan polio programme has detected transmission of Sabin-Like Type 2 Derived (SLT2D) poliovirus through its disease surveillance system.

The virus has caused seven cases of paralysis in recent months, mainly in the northern parts of the country. Outbreaks of polio occur where a large number of children are under-immunised.

The only way to reduce the risks of further transmission is to address gaps in immunisation coverage. The programme is working on a comprehensive outbreak response that includes rounds of vaccination in the area to protect every child under the age of five years.

Outbreaks of the same virus have recently been reported in Philippines, China, Indonesia, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo and several other countries in Africa and are caused by gaps in immunisation coverage. If a population is fully immunised against polio, it will be protected against the spread of all polioviruses.