One more polio case has been confirmed from Bara in Khyber Agency, taking the total number reported in the country during the last three months to 15.
National Institute of Health (NIH), on Tuesday, confirmed type-1 wild polio virus in an eight-month-old boy, Arif, from Haji Mir Gul Kalay village in Bara tehsil.
Arif was struck by polio on March 11 this year. The parents said their child had never been administered polio drops.
It is the fifth polio case reported from Khyber Agency this year which is the only region in Asia where both type-1 and type-3 virus still exist, a major concern for national and international health experts.
“The new case in Bara clearly reflects that the transmission of the crippling virus has turned into an ugly epidemic in the area and is now threatening hundreds and thousands of children in the neighbouring city of Peshawar,” said an official of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“We are afraid that there will be more polio cases from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas Fata in the days ahead,” WHO Senior Coordinator for Polio Eradication Dr Elias Durry told The Express Tribune.
A three-day emergency anti-polio vaccination drive was launched in Jalozai camp and nearby villages on Monday to immunise the internally-displaced children from highly-endemic Bara tehsil.
The drive was launched following a red alert issued by the WHO last week to prevent transmission of the virus to Peshawar and other surrounding areas.
“We have decided to administer polio vaccine to children up to the age of 15 in Jalozai camp as the crippling virus may be transmitted by children,” he said.
The drive has been divided into three stages. Children up to the age of 15 residing in the Jalozai camp will be administered polio vaccines. In the nearby districts, children up to the age of five will be immunised against measles and given Vitamin A drops.
In the final stage, during the second week of April, the focus will be on the administration of oral polio vaccine to children.
The official said the number of cases being reported from Bara is extremely alarming. He said Bara has remained inaccessible to polio teams since 2009 due to militancy and military operations.
“We have been unable to immunise over 100,000 children in various parts of Khyber Agency, especially Bara since August 2009,” he said.
WHO has also established 24 transit polio check posts on routes leading to Bara, whereas 110 polio teams have been organised to vaccinate children.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2012.