Govt faces uphill task to contain polio virus

Polio VirusPESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health department is facing an uphill task to eradicate ‘indigenous’ polio virus in Peshawar, according to officials.

They said that the virus was spreading to other parts of the province from Peshawar. “Its presence has put the immunisations efforts in jeopardy as water polluted with virus puts children at the risk of being infected,” they added.The officials said that sewerage environmental samplings from the two designated sites were continuously showing presence of polio virus in water and sewerage system in the city. “As far as the virus remains in circulation in water, poliomyelitis will continue to haunt children,” they said.Last year, Peshawar recorded six cases, the highest number in any district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, they said. “Genetic sequencing of the cases has shown that the virus detected in children is of local nature.

The province recorded 23 cases in 2011, most of which were either imported from Karachi or Federally Administered Tribal Areas,” they said.But Peshawar didn’t import virus from other areas rather it transported virus to Afghanistan, they said. They added that owing to presence of indigenous polio virus Peshawar was posing problems to children of other districts.Last year a child in Dir had actually been infected from virus that originated from Peshawar, they said. “This year, out of the total four cases, only one case in Peshawar was local while the rest of three recorded in other districts were imported,” they said.

The World Health Organisation had established two sites, one each in Larama and Shaheen Muslim Town localities in July 2010, to collect and analyse samples from there on monthly basis, they said.Except once, results from both the sites had emerged negative that strongly suggested that elimination of virus from Peshawar was mandatory to do away with the crippling ailment.Officials at the health department said that they were going to hammer out a Peshawar-specific strategy in a meeting to be held this week.“We want to strengthen the office of the executive district officer (health) to ensure monitoring of the vaccination campaign in Peshawar,” they added. According to the proposed strategy, at least four health managers would be put at the disposal of EDO, who could oversee the campaign in four town councils, they added.The meeting, to be chaired by the provincial director-general health, would also discuss the problems faced by vaccinators from the areas where immunisation was not up to the mark.

“We desperately need an evidence-based strategy to eradicate the disease. The government has been facing tremendous pressure from the UN and international donors to eradicate the virus,” they said. Rapidly growing population of Peshawar had exposed children to polio, they added. – Dawn