KARACHI - Sindh Health Minister Dr Sagheer Ahmed on Tuesday suspended the three-day polio-eradication campaign in the whole province after the killing of five polio vaccinators, including four women, in the metropolis.

Health experts showed concern over the killing of five health workers in Karachi and suspension of the anti-polio campaign in the province and said that international community might impose ban on the travel of Pakistanis to other polio-free countries due to the presence of polio virus in Pakistan.

The incident of the polio vaccinators’ killing in the suburbs of the metropolis has once again proved the presence of extremists in the suburbs of Karachi as Taliban had already issued threats against the anti-polio drive in Pakistan where persistent wild poliovirus transmission is restricted to three groups of districts – Karachi city, a group of districts in Balochistan and districts in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

In addition, Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan repeatedly re-infect each other due to the substantial population movements within and between the countries.

The provincial health minister said that the three-day campaign had been suspended in the whole province due to the fatal attacks on the health workers, including four women, participating in the campaign. He condemned the attacks by miscreants and said this was a heinous crime to target the health workers who were playing their role in the eradication of polio in the province.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis within hours. The virus enters the body through mouth and multiplies in intestine. Initial symptoms are fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, neck stiffness and pain in limbs. One in 200 infections leads to an irreversible paralysis (usually in legs). Among those paralysed, 5 per cent to 10 per cent die when their breathing muscles become immobilised. There is no cure for polio; it can only be prevented.

Polio vaccine, given at multiple times, can protect a child for life. It is pertinent to mention here that Pakistan’s inclusion in the 20 polio-endemic countries of the world makes it an important polio reservoir. As per global polio eradication initiative, no new wild polio virus (WPV) cases were reported in the past week. The most recently reported WPV case occurred in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (WPV1) with onset of paralysis on November 10, 2012. The total number of WPV cases in 2012 remains 56.

Talking to The Nation, Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) Sindh President Dr Samrina Hashmi expressed grave concern over the suspension of the campaign in the province and said the suspended campaign was inevitable as there were fresh threats of virus in the metropolis. International community could impose ban on the travel of Pakistanis to other polio-free countries, which was really a point of concern for the authorities concerned, she said and added the government should take concrete steps to make the campaign successful in the province.

Central PMA Treasurer Dr Qaiser Sajjad said the enemies of the country wanted to destabilise it and killing of the polio vaccinators in the city was part of such conspiracy. He said though suspension of the campaign was necessary, it was really unfortunate.

He added killing of the five vaccinators, including four women, was an inhuman act and a heinous crime.