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Pakistan reports 18th polio case of the year

Monday, June 08, 2009
Shahina Maqbool http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=181914


Pakistan reported its 18th polio case of the year on Sunday when a ten-month-old child belonging to tehsil Shujabad of district Multan was confirmed by the National Institute of Health (NIH) as having been afflicted by the crippling disease.

According to experts, the case is from an area that is part of the polio reservoir axis that extends from northern Balochistan to the southern tip of Punjab. “Cases in southern Punjab represent the last remnants of the 2008 outbreak, when the province reported 31 of the 117 cases in total; that was the highest number of polio cases reported in Pakistan in five years,” an expert commented.

The latest case, Tahzeeb, is reported by the district health authorities to have received all routine and additional doses of polio vaccine during different campaigns right since birth. “The child’s immune system may not have responded to the vaccine doses; this can happen in malnourished children and among those living in squalid conditions resulting in frequent episodes of diarrhoea, which do not allow vaccine absorption,” a paediatrician reflected.

Polio is currently restricted to 12 districts with eleven type one and seven type three cases reported so far this year. Shujabad is in the vicinity where poliovirus circulation has been seen for some time and appropriate case response strategies have been employed including special mop-up campaigns as per internationally recognised strategies, the manager of the Expanded Programme on Immunization Dr Altaf Bosan stated when asked to comment on the latest case.

Punjab is being treated polio-free as endorsed by a global team of experts who met in Cairo last week to review Pakistan’s progress in the fight against polio. Cases from the southern-most tip of Punjab represent intense poliovirus activity in the poliovirus axis extending to north of Balochistan and is characteristic of virus behaviour during the eradication phase, Dr Bosan added.

Multan and other districts of southern Punjab have been included in all nationwide and targeted vaccination campaigns in 2009. In the meeting of the Technical Advisory Group on Polio, experts concluded that the cases in Multan are a result of multiple poliovirus importations from Sindh and NWFP/FATA.

In order to minimize the risk of further spread of virus in local populations, a case response targeting 50,000 children is recommended this week in areas considered to be at highest risk. “The district health authorities are being requested to ensure the highest possible campaign quality in this case response,” Dr Bosan said.

He was confident of the current transmission not persisting for long on account of high quality of vaccination activities in Punjab, and effective management of polio eradication activities by the provincial and district authorities.