Rawalpindi-Head of Anti-Polio Drive Punjab Khizar Iqbal on Thursday said that a polio environmental sample collected in July from the Rawalpindi’s Sarae Kala area had tested positive.
According to the report, the genetic sample was linked to the area of Nangarhar province of Afghanistan, he said and added that the Sarae Kala area had been added to the environmental sites including two other sites of Rawalpindi Safdarabad and Dhoke Dalal in December 2022 to reinforce poliovirus surveillance and to plan response in time. Khizar added that the polio sample had tested positive first time in Rawalpindi since September 2022 and the third sample in Punjab this year.
“The positive sample in Rawalpindi indicates that the virus is circulating in the region, though no case has been reported so far.”
Khizer Afzal who is also the Coordinator of Emergency Operations Center Punjab informed that the government was launching a vaccination response in the area to vaccinate every child by administering polio drops to boost their immunity against the crippling disease.
“If a single case is reported in a region, it remains a threat to children residing in 200 houses in the vicinity,” he added. He said that Punjab had set up 31 polio environmental sampling sites in 19 districts of the province including Lahore, Multan, Khanewal, Bahawalnagar, Jhang, Attock, Gujrat, Mianwali, DG Khan, Rajanpur, Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Faisalabad, Sargodha, Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Sialkot, Sahiwal and Okara.
“Surveillance for Acute Flaccid Paralysis is considered to be the ‘gold standard’ for polio surveillance in endemic and polio-free countries but experts also indicated that environmental surveillance could serve as an early warning system for the detection of polio-virus when targeting areas where high-risk groups, such as mobile population or un-immunized populations reside.”
He further added that the campaign, called Outbreak Response, had been launched in all Afghan refugee camps of Pakistan to prevent poliovirus importation from endemic zones, adding polio teams were also targeting 3200 children in the Afghan refugee camp located in Mianwali district.