The country’s polio eradication initiative suffered a setback on Friday when the National Institute of Health (NIH) reported the first polio case of the year. The bad news didn’t just stop there. The fresh case also ended Karachi’s polio-free status, one that it had maintained for the past 14 months.
According to the NIH virology laboratory, the victim is 24-month-old Musharaf, who resides in Bin Qasim Town. His parents refused to inoculate their child on religious grounds.
According to the World Health Organistation data, 127 families in Bin Qasim Town refused to get their children vaccinated in December, while 949 children could not be reached due to other reasons. The total target population of the town is 566,212.
The virus was confirmed by the health department of Islamabad, Sindh Health Director General Dr Ashfaq Memon told The Express Tribune by phone. The last polio case in the city was reported in November 2011, when 16-month-old Kainat, a resident of Baldia Town, was found suffering from the crippling disease.
The case emerges at a time when the government is already planning to restart the polio vaccination campaign in Karachi from next week.
An anti-polio drive in 21 districts of Sindh, excluding Karachi, ended on Thursday, said Sindh EPI’s provincial head Dr Mazhar Khamisani. An emergency meeting will review and plan the strategy to handle the situation, he added.
The door-to-door vaccination campaign was suspended in December after five female health workers were shot dead in seemingly coordinated attacks at the beginning of a nationwide polio vaccination drive – raising fears for the safety of inoculators and highlighting resistance to a campaign highly politicised by the Taliban.
With the confirmation of the new case, Pakistan’s tally for polio case stands at 58 in 2012. Bara Tehsil in Khyber Agency remained the worst performing district of 2012, reporting nine polio cases.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 2nd, 2013.
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