PESHAWAR: Polio has again reared its ugly head in Pakistan as 80 cases have been reported in the country so far including 59 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Another alarming development came in shape of poliovirus found in sewage samples in Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta during recent tests. According to sources in the Health Department, samples from sewage were taken from October 11-17. Poliovirus was found in samples in four locations Lahore and two locations in Rawalpindi. In Rawalpindi, poliovirus was found in sewage samples from Safdarabad area. In Peshawar, poliovirus was found in sewage samples taken from Shaheen Town. Poliovirus was also found in samples taken from Sohrab Goth, Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Gadap, Machar Colony and Haji Mureed Goth in Karachi. In Quetta, poliovirus was found in samples from Tawas Abad and Masan Nullah of Dadu.
Few days ago, Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication Babar bin Atta quit from his post citing personal reasons. But, media reports indicated that he was asked to leave as he was unable to contribute to the strategy to stop the spread of polio in Pakistan.
In another worrisome development, officials in Pakistan have been accused of covering up the emergence of fresh polio cases.
A report in The Guardian said while quoting a source in Pakistan’s Polio Eradication Programme and documentation, a dozen children have been infected with the P2 strain of polio, which causes paralysis and primarily effects those under five.
Dr Malik Safi, Coordinator of the National Emergency Operation Centre, confirmed the P2 outbreak, but would not give any further comment.
The P2 strain had previously been eliminated from the country. However, the new cases were allegedly kept hidden from the government and from international donors under direct instruction from Babar Bin Atta. The alleged cases, which have all resulted in paralysis, have been discovered mainly in Diamer district, with one in the capital, Islamabad.
Under Pakistani law, every new case of polio in the country has to be officially registered with the government, which then alerts international health bodies.
Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries in the world which have not entirely eradicated polio.