ISLAMABAD - The extensive environmental surveillance established by Pakistan Polio Eradication programme has detected poliovirus in sewage of eight populous cities during the last month.

A statement issued by Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) said that according to results shared by the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC), the presence of poliovirus was confirmed in sewage samples collected from Karachi, Peshawar, Bannu, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Killa Abdullah, Pishin and Quetta during December 2018.

Considering the associated risks, the country programme has urged parents to ensure immunisation of all children under the age of 5 years during the upcoming polio campaign scheduled to start from 21st January.

“Our case counts are declining but as long as the virus is present anywhere in the country, threat of polio remains for the vulnerable children. Continuous population movements to and from these infected cities pose a risk to children elsewhere as well,” said Dr Rana Safdar, programme manager NEOC.

While acknowledging progress already made towards the noble cause, the recently-concluded Technical Advisor Group urged the programme to focus on children who miss vaccination because of any reason and let the virus survives no longer. Dr Safdar said that in order to completely eradicate polio, vaccinating all children against all preventable diseases including polio was imperative both in routine and in special door-to-door campaigns. Babar Bin Atta, Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication, said the misconception of a caregiver led to paralysis of another child in Bajaur tribal district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, who had every right to live healthy and productive life. It is a reminder to everyone that no excuse could save your child from paralysis, especially if the child is not repeatedly vaccinated.

“It is also more cumbersome when this paralysis is lifelong and not reversible. I can’t emphasise enough how critically important it is to ensure that each and every child is vaccinated during the upcoming polio campaign during the month of January,” he added. Sewage water samples are collected on a monthly basis from 58 sampling sites across the country under supervision of relevant provincial health departments and tested at Regional Polio Reference Laboratory housed at National Institute of Health, Islamabad. The genetic sequencing further guides the programme in undertaking requisite response activities.

“Pakistan stands the best chance of getting rid of the crippling virus forever. Every Pakistani must now assume the role of a polio worker to ensure vaccination of all children during every campaign”, Babar Bin Atta said.