By Robin Gomes
Four new cases of polio have been reported in Pakistan, taking the total number of cases to 41 this year. The new cases were confirmed by the National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC) on Monday.
Two cases each were reported from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Balochistan provinces. According to official data, 25 polio cases were reported from KP, three each from Punjab and Sindh province, two cases from Balochistan and eight cases were reported from tribal districts.
The NEOC said that in all four fresh polio cases, routine immunization was zero and also predominant parental refusal is found to be common among the polio victims. It said that identification of new cases is yet another reminder that as long as the poliovirus exists anywhere in the country, no child is safe from being infected.
Polio virus still undefeated
Pakistan is among three countries in the world, including Afghanistan and Nigeria, where the polio virus still exists and the country remains under a polio-linked travel restriction imposed by the World Health Organization (WHO).
In 2014, the WHO made it mandatory for all people travelling from Pakistan to carry a polio vaccination certificate.
The polio campaign in Pakistan has met with resistance from many Pakistanis who believe that vaccination is anti-Islamic, causes infertility or is a Western campaign to kill Muslims.
Armed assailants belonging to militant groups have frequently targeted polio vaccinators and their security in several parts of Pakistan.
According to Pakistani officials, around 88 people associated with the drive have been killed across the country since December 2012.
How dangerous is polio?
Poliomyelitis or polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus which invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. The virus is transmitted by person-to-person spread mainly through the faecal-oral route or, less frequently, by a common vehicle such as contaminated water or food and multiplies in the intestine.
One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis (usually in the legs). Among those paralyzed, 5% to 10% die when their breathing muscles become immobilized.
There is no cure for polio, it can only be prevented. Polio vaccine, given multiple times, can protect a child for life.
The Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication, Babar Bin Atta, said that the next door-to-door polio vaccination campaign in selected districts will be conducted in July and August. He appealed to parents, religious leaders and other stakeholders to convince people to vaccinate their children for eliminating the deadly disease.
Speaking about the propaganda against the anti-polio vaccination drive, he said about 500 to 700 Facebook pages have been blocked for propagating negative content.