PESHAWAR: Polio eradication campaigns have been strengthened after environmental samples collected from Sindh and Punjab have tested positive for carrying the poliovirus.
An official privy to the matter informed The Express Tribune that the samples that tested positive for the virus were obtained from parts of Rawalpindi, Jacobabad and Qambar as well as Karachi’s localities of Gulshan-e-Iqbal and Gadap.
The recent discovery has sparked fears of a reoccurrence in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P).
“Although all environmental samples from K-P have tested negative for polio but we still have to watch out for possibilities of the virus spreading and ensure we do not lax our efforts,” said a senior health official involved in the anti-polio programme.
The official said on conditions of anonymity that they had been concentrating on people having nomadic lifestyles the most “as they carry the highest risk of spreading the virus if they contract it”.
“We do have parents who refuse to get their children vaccinated but we try and be persistent, following them around till they agree,” he said, adding that even slight negligence on the part of the parents or the officials involved could badly affect the situation.
Later, a statement issued by K-P Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) said that a comprehensive campaign was underway to ensure that any traces of the virus in its dormant state could also be hunted down. The campaign hopes to target 5,620,783 children.
According to the statement, 3,224,332 households will be visited with the help of 20,388 teams. These teams are being supervised by 4,622 people while being assisted by 1,140 union council supervisors and further overseen by 32 provincial and national monitors.
As many as 236 roaming teams have been deployed in markets and hospitals and about 919 teams have been deployed to vaccinate children at bus-stands, airport, railway stations and motorways. Around 1,798,553 children, which make up about 33% of the total target, have been vaccinated and the rest will be vaccinated within the next few days.
To keep future numbers of polio and dengue next to nothing, the K-P government is now focusing on educating schoolchildren so they can help keep themselves safe. A total of four new cases of polio have been confirmed this year – one each in Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan.