Islamabad: Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq directed thorough investigation into a case of polio reported in Diamir district of Gilgit-Baltistan. “The reappearance of the poliovirus in Gilgit-Baltistan, a low risk area, indicates that the virus is under intense pressure with the programmatic improvements in high risk districts and core reservoirs. The virus is thus looking for unvaccinated and persistently missed children across the country”, said Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq, Prime Minister’s Focal Person for Polio Eradication, according to a press release.
“We have immediately launched an investigation to find out more details so that we can respond adequately to protect other children in the community. The National EOC Rapid Response Team is on the ground to support the district teams of Diamir and Gilgit for a strong case response round starting next week. Far flung villages in hard to reach areas will be given special focus. A second case respond targeting 7 districts will then follow in two weeks”, she said.
Historically, only two polio cases have been reported from Gilgit Baltistan with one case in 2011 and the other in 2012, and both of these cases were reported from the Diamir district. A better routine immunization coverage as compared to many other parts of the country, gives us an advantage and together with the Gilgit Baltistan government, we will ensure that the area is polio-free once again”, she emphasized.
To date the number of polio cases recorded in Pakistan is the lowest ever with 20 cases reported in 2016 against 54 cases in 2015 and 306 in 2014. Despite reporting of two cases, start of 2017 compares well with 2016 when by this date 7 cases were reported; 3 each from KP and Sindh and 1 from Balochistan; an indication that eradication efforts have begun to close the immunity gaps and the programme is on track to reaching the goal of interrupting the transmission of polio in Pakistan.
While tremendous progress in stopping poliovirus transmission in most areas of Pakistan made in the past couple of years, the message from last two cases is loud and clear – as long as there is virus anywhere in the country, no child is safe from being infected, especially the children who still don’t have full immunity. “Any child with low immunity will be where the virus finds refuge. We need to ensure all our children have completed their routine immunizations and are vaccinated with two polio drops, every time the vaccine is offered”, maintained senator Farooq.