KARACHI/BARA - Two new polio cases surfaced in Karachi and Khyber Agency on Tuesday, increasing the number of polio cases during current year to 117 across the country.

According to health department, a 16 months old girl named Laiba hailing from Bara tehsil of Khyber Agency was confirmed positive of polio virus at a local hospital. In another polio case surfaced in Mansehra colony of Karachi where one year old boy named Ahmed is suffering from the disease. His parents said that he was not administered polio vaccine.

At least 117 polio cases have been confirmed across the country in the current year, in which 11 cases have been reported different parts of Sindh and 10 cases in Karachi.

On Monday, the government kicked off a five-day anti-polio campaign for 46 union councils of the provincial capital. A total 500,000 children under five will be immunised during the drive that would last till August 24. Authorities have augmented security for polio squad. The teams will be escorted by police and Rangers.

Reportedly, 10 ‘high-risk’ districts in Sindh, including Karachi, have been identified vis-à-vis the consistent presence of wild poliovirus – mostly in the northern Sindh areas. They are Khairpur, Sukkur, Ghotki, Kashmore, Shikarpur, Jacobabad, Kambar and Larkana. The other two districts are Hyderabad and Karachi.

In Karachi, Baldia, Gadap and Gulshan-i-Iqbal towns have been declared high-risk zones. The volatile UC-4 of Gadap Town, where anti-polio campaigns have frequently been interrupted because of attacks on vaccinators, has been described as poliovirus sanctuary for consistent presence of wild poliovirus. Five women among seven volunteers have so far been killed during such drives. The environmental samples collected over the past seven months confirm the presence of poliovirus and these three neighbourhoods of Karachi fall in the Priority 1 areas, officials said in the report.

Out of nine polio cases in Karachi this year, four belong to Gadap. With one case reported from Sanghar district, Sindh’s contribution to the country’s 108 cases is 10. In the Priority 2 areas, which have reported at least one case over the past four years, are: Ghotki, Jacobabad, Kambar, Kashmore, Khairpur, Larkana, Mirpurkhas, Naushahro Feroze, Shikarpur, Sukkur districts and Gulberg, Liaquatabad and SITE areas of Karachi.

Official figures show that at least 333 polio cases have been reported in Sindh since 2000, including 10 this year.

The annual incidence of polio in Pakistan, which was estimated to be more than 20,000 cases a year in early 1990s, had decreased to 28 cases in 2005. Officials said it was hard to believe now, but a few years ago Pakistan was on the verge of polio eradication. It said that polio vaccination coverage had remained low over the years in some parts of the country, especially Gadap, Gulshan-i-Iqbal and Baldia towns of Karachi, Balochistan’s Quetta, Pishin and Killa Abdullah districts, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata because of ‘highly mobile populations’.

“These areas have been consistently infected with poliovirus, which has turned them into reservoirs where virus breeds freely and spreads all over the country,” said the document. “Such areas are high-risk and 80 per cent of all polio cases in Pakistan are attributed to them. Defeating polio there means ending polio almost all over the country,” it concludes. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has imposed travel restriction because of prowling polio virus in Pakistan.