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Third polio case of the year reported

Affected child had onset of paralysis on May 2 in Miranshah, case confirmed on May 14

A one-year-old boy has been paralyzed by wild polio in North Waziristan, in the third case reported from Pakistan this year.

According to official sources, the child had an onset of paralysis on 2nd May in Miranshah, while the case was confirmed by the Pakistan National Polio Laboratory at the National Institute of Health (NIH), Islamabad on Saturday, May 14.

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“Another child will live with lifelong physical disabilities because of this preventable disease. As a country, we must understand the human cost of not finishing polio in Pakistan. Every polio case is a huge tragedy,” Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel said.

“In the absence of any cure for poliovirus, the only way to protect children from life-long physical disabilities is to vaccinate them in each campaign,” the health minister added.

“Since January, we have taken emergency measures in the southern districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to save children from wild polio and these measures have been further extended and intensified”, he added.

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The six districts in southern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa had been identified by the polio programme as the area most at risk and an emergency action plan was initiated that is allowing the programme to reach more children than before.

“I am personally monitoring all polio eradication efforts. Recently, I visited Khyber Pakhtunkhwa after the outbreak and met the families of the affected children. I will now be going to all areas at high risk for polio to oversee operations on the ground,” the minister added.

“After the first child was paralyzed, we feared that there would be more polio cases because of how infectious this virus is. Unfortunately, there may be more until every child is reached by the vaccine,” said Health Secretary Aamir Ashraf Khawaja.

After staying a polio-free country for almost 15 months, Pakistan reported its first two cases of the virus on April 22 and April 30, respectively – both from North Waziristan.

The victims, a 15-month-old boy and a two-year-old girl belonged to the Mir Ali tehsil of North Waziristan. On January 27, Pakistan had seen one year without the detection of a polio case. The only infection in 2021 was reported from Balochistan while all other federating and administrative units remained polio-free.

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Aamir Ashraf Khawaja said that the ministry feared an uptick in the cases after the first one was reported. “Unfortunately, there may be more until every child is reached by the vaccine.” Earlier, media reported that polio resurgence had come mainly due to ‘fake’ finger marking. The vaccinators mark the fingers of the vaccinated children but the reluctant families get the fingers of their children marked without being vaccinated,” a senior health worker revealed.

He said the health workers accepted the fake finger marking demand to prevent reprisals by parents and their community. North Waziristan district health officer Dr Gulistan Wazir had said the vaccinators would be taking religious leaders and elders along during the future vaccination campaign to prevent fake finger marking and ensure that the targeted children receive drops.

“We have the support of the district administration and paramilitary forces to dig out fake vaccination. In future, this issue would be resolved,” he said. North Waziristan assistant DHO Dr. Shamsur Rehman had said that the visiting teams from Islamabad and Peshawar held meetings with jirga members and religious scholars and prevailed upon them to throw their support behind anti-polio efforts to do away with vaccination refusals. Meanwhile, vaccinators in the area had complained that 110,000 children were targeted for polio vaccination and fewer than 1,000 vaccination refusals were reported.

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