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Polio can spread globally if not addressed in Pak: WHO

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Representational Image

Rohit Shishodia
A World Health Organization (WHO) panel has expressed concern over the spreading of the polio virus in Pakistan due to which cases of the virus are being reported in Afghanistan. The WHO has warned that cases of polio in Pakistan and Afghanistan would again increase the risk of its international spread.

The panel has informed that 73 cases of polio virus have been reported across the globe till date in 2019, which is higher than the reported 15 cases in the same period in 2018.

The panel said that in Pakistan transmission  of polio continues to be widespread, as indicated by both AFP (acute flaccid paralysis) surveillance and environmental sampling. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province region is majorly hit.  

The panel pointed out that the increasing refusal by individuals in the country to accept vaccination is a serious setback to polio eradication.  The committee was very concerned about the current status of the management of the polio program in Pakistan.

The panel has highlighted that based on sequencing of viruses, there were new and recent instances of international spread of viruses from Pakistan to Afghanistan, in addition to the earlier reported exportation of virus to Iran (but without further transmission).

The panel believes that the resumption of (Wild Polio Virus 1) WPV1 international spread between Pakistan and Afghanistan suggests that rising transmission in Pakistan correlates with increasing risk of WPV1 exportation beyond the single epidemiological block formed by the two nations.

The panel has blamed deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan for hampered progress towards global polio eradication. The panel noted that inaccessible and missed children, particularly in the Southern Region, mean there is a large and growing cohort of susceptible children in this part of Afghanistan. The risk of a major upsurge of cases is growing, with other parts of the country that have been free of WPV1 for some time now, at risk of outbreaks.


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