Karachi: Expressing serious concern over emergence of three polio cases in Sindh and terming the situation of polio as ‘alarming in Sindh’, the National Emergency Operation Center (NEOC), Islamabad has requested the Sindh government to hurriedly convene a meeting of provincial task for polio eradication in the coming days to discuss and suggest measures to improve the situation, which would be chaired by federal state minister for health Dr. Zafar Mirza.
In a letter to Sindh Chief Secretary on Monday, NEOC Islamabad Coordinator Dr. Malik Muhammad Safi said in addition to emergence of three polio cases in Sindh including two from Karachi and one from Larkana this year, polio virus was also persistently being detected from sewage in Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Gadap, Landhi, Baldia, Korangi, SITE , Saddar and Liaquatabad, as well as from Hyderabad, Sukkur and Jacobabad which was also a great cause of concern for the authorities.
At the same time, the NEOC Coordinator maintained, a large number of children were being missed from getting the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) while number refusals was also all time high and added that the aforesaid situation ‘hints at lack of ownership and oversight by the Commissioners and Deputy Commissioners in Sindh for polio eradication in their respective areas.
“The sub-optimal implementation of the April NID campaign due to Peshawar incident has further increased the level of risk posed to children in Sindh by the polio”, NEOC Coordinator Dr. Safi said and added that he along with national team will visit Karachi on May 22 and 23, 2019 and will hold meetings with Chief Secretary Sindh, Sindh Health Minister and Commissioner Karachi as well as other stakeholders.
The federal government official said in order to achieve maximum results and bring all the authorities and stakeholders at one page, a meeting of the provincial task force for polio eradication should be convened on any day between May 23 to 31, 2019.
“Minister of State for Health (Dr. Zafar Mirza) is presently in Geneva but he will arrive straight to Karachi on the morning of May 23 and desired to attend the meeting of provincial task force on polio eradication along with his team”, the National EOC Coordinator said.
Karachi’s polio virus detected in Iran
In the meanwhile, for the first time in last five years, wild poliovirus 1 (WPV1) of Karachi’s origin has been detected from an environmental sample in Iran, Seestan-Baluchistan Province, polio eradication officials said, adding that the virus was detected in an environmental sample only – no associated cases of paralysis have been detected.
National EOC Islamabad officials said the affected province of Iran borders both Baluchistan, Pakistan, and part of Southern Region, Afghanistan and genetic sequencing has confirmed that the isolated virus is linked to WPV1 circulating in Karachi, Pakistan.
An immediate risk assessment suggests that this event has limited public health implications, given Iran’s very high levels of routine immunization coverage and strong disease surveillance. At the same time, this event further underlines the risk of renewed international spread of WPV1 from Pakistan and Afghanistan.
It is worth mentioning here that WHO’s International Travel and Health recommends that all travelers to polio-affected areas be fully vaccinated against polio. Residents (and visitors for more than 4 weeks) from infected areas should receive an additional dose of OPV or inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) within 4 weeks to 12 months of travel