Originating from Pakistan, the crippling polio virus has now made its way into Egypt after China.
Following the export of the deadly virus to the Middle Eastern country, the Prime Minister’s Polio Monitoring and Coordination Cell, along with its international partners the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Unicef, on Monday directed all the provincial governments and the federal administration to immediately establish polio vaccination counters inside international departure lounges at all airports across the country.
Pakistan is struggling to eradicate the virus and has become a threat to all other countries, which have been declared polio free.
Recently two sewage samples collected from the Al Salam and Al Haggana areas of the Cairo district, when examined in a laboratory, had resemblance to a strain discovered in the sewage water tested in the Sukkur district of Sindh.
Earlier, the PM’s polio cell has asked the Sindh government several times to improve its polio immunisation on an emergency basis in order to control the transmission of its virus.
Though the virus has not infected any child in Egypt and the country remains polio-free since 2004, the Egyptian ministry of health has ordered immediate vaccination of all children less than five years in the localities near Cairo from where the Pakistani-origin virus was discovered.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Dr Altaf Boson, national coordinator for monitoring Pakistan’s polio vaccination programme, said earlier polio vaccination counters at the airports used to be established during anti-polio campaigns only but from now on the counters will be functional 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
He said transmission of polio virus within and out of the country is possible due to mass movement of population.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication ShahnazWazir Ali in a statement issued said, “Importation of polio virus is a stark reminder of the risks associated with active polio virus transmission in the country and the need to make efforts to stop the transmission on an urgent basis in Pakistan”.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 22nd, 2013.