Polio Persists: Second Case in Two Days Raises Alarm in Pakistan

The latest incident has been reported from Balochistan’s Chaman district, where a 52-month-old child has been tragically paralyzed by the wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1).

The recent emergence of yet another polio case in Pakistan, occurring within two days, has reignited apprehensions regarding the nation’s ongoing battle against the debilitating disease. The latest incident has been reported from Balochistan’s Chaman district, where a 52-month-old child has been tragically paralyzed by the wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1).

Confirmed by the Regional Reference Lab for Polio Eradication at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Islamabad, the presence of WPV1 was detected in the child’s stool samples. Notably, this isolated strain belongs to the imported YB3A cluster, which has now been linked to ten positive cases reported in Chaman since October 2023.

This disconcerting development follows closely on the heels of another case reported just a day prior, involving a 30-month-old boy in Dera Bugti. The child exhibited weakness in both lower limbs, with the isolated virus also belonging to the aforementioned YB3A cluster.

The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) has swiftly responded to these incidents, urging for immediate action to address gaps in immunization efforts across the country. An official from the NIH lab emphasized the persistent threat posed by poliovirus, as evidenced by its detection in 56 environmental samples across more than 25 districts in the current year alone, and in over 100 sewage samples last year.

The official underscored the vulnerability of malnourished children with weak immunity, stressing the importance of vaccination in combating polio and other childhood diseases. In light of these alarming cases, the national polio program has conducted two vaccination drives since the beginning of 2024, targeting 45 million children.

In response to the escalating situation, authorities have announced a fresh polio drive commencing on March 25, focusing on districts where the virus has been identified. This campaign aims to reach over six million children, reflecting the urgency of containing the outbreak.

Expressing deep concerns, the PMA highlighted the critical need to ensure comprehensive vaccination coverage for all children. Dr. Abdul Ghafoor Shoro, Secretary General of the PMA, emphasized the severity of poliovirus infections, which primarily affect children under the age of five, leading to paralysis, permanent disability, and, in severe cases, death.

Despite significant progress in the fight against polio, Pakistan remains one of the last two countries where the disease persists. Dr. Shoro emphasized the imperative of sustained immunization efforts, labeling the recent cases as a “wake-up call” for health authorities and communities nationwide.

To combat vaccine hesitancy and dispel misconceptions, the PMA stressed the importance of public awareness campaigns, focusing on the safety and efficacy of polio immunization. Dr. Shoro reiterated the commitment of the PMA to collaborate with government agencies and stakeholders to safeguard children from this debilitating disease.

As Pakistan strives towards the goal of polio eradication, concerted efforts from all sectors of society are imperative to overcome the challenges and ensure a polio-free future for generations to come.