Polio strikes Pakistan after five months: Three-year-old boy tests positive

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Pakistan has reported its first polio case of 2023 after a three-year-old boy in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Bannu district tested positive for the wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1), according to the health ministry.

The boy, who belongs to Ghora Bakka Khel area, has both his legs affected by the crippling disease. He had no travel history and his vaccination status is under investigation.

This is the first confirmed case of polio in Pakistan this year, after a gap of five months. The last case was reported in October 2022 from North Waziristan.

Pakistan is one of the two countries in the world, along with Afghanistan, where polio remains endemic. The country recorded 20 cases of polio in 2022, all from districts in southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The health authorities have expressed concern over the detection of the virus and urged parents to vaccinate their children under five years of age during every immunization campaign.

They have also issued an alert for increased movement of people from tribal districts to urban areas during Ramadan and Eid festivals, which could pose a risk of spreading the virus.

A vaccination drive is planned to be launched in tribal districts from April 10, as security personnel are currently engaged in digital census duties.

Pakistan is one of the few countries in the world where polio still persists, mainly due to the resistance and violence faced by polio workers from militant groups and hardline clerics.

These groups oppose polio vaccination campaigns, claiming that they are a conspiracy to sterilize or spy on Muslims. As a result, many polio workers have been killed or injured while trying to immunize children in remote and insecure areas.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least 95 polio workers have been killed and 38 injured in Pakistan since 2012.

The attacks have hampered the efforts to eradicate the disease and put millions of children at risk of paralysis.

The government and its partners have taken various measures to protect polio workers and raise awareness among communities about the benefits of vaccination. However, the challenges remain as Pakistan continues to report new cases of polio every year.


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