KARACHI: A second polio case within three months has emerged in the city, this time in a five-month-old baby, setting off alarm bells and exposing the fact that authorities in the metropolis have yet to eradicate the crippling disease, officials said on Tuesday.
“The second case, too, involves an Afghan family. A five-month-old boy has fallen prey to the virus in UC-4 of Gadap,” said a senior official in the Sindh health ministry.
Officials said the child had duly been administered with anti-polio drops during frequent campaigns. However, they blamed “low immunity” in the child’s body because of malnutrition that failed to save him.
“He had received polio drops, but no routine immunisation,” said a senior official.
Officials at the Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) for Polio in Sindh identified the boy as Zaibullah, son of Ghulam Sakhi, a resident of UC-4 Gadap.
“The child has contracted the virus affecting both of his legs. The family hails from Afghanistan.”
This case also involves an Afghan family
More than three months ago the city produced its first case after remaining safe from the crippling disease for 20 months. The seven-year-old victim, too, belonged to an Afghan family whose parents refused to inoculate him against polio. It was also the first case reported in Sindh since October last year.
“It is unfortunate that this child is affected by polio. The teams had reached him with oral polio vaccine but he had no routine immunisation and [had] low immunity,” said Sindh coordinator of the EOC Fayyaz Jatoi.
“Given the presence of virus circulation in Karachi,” he said, “I urge parents to ensure that they must give their children polio drops during every campaign until they are five years of age and also make sure they get their routine immunisation.”
Karachi had otherwise made tangible progress in polio eradication.
“Just three years ago the city reported 23 polio cases. The EOC has contained the germ through innovative strategies such as hiring educated local female workers. These strategies have brought us to the brink of polio eradication. However, we are [still] at a difficult juncture,” said Mr Jatoi. “We have repeatedly warned that despite such progress we have still not crossed the finish line. Our workers must double their efforts and we must reach every child.”
He added that Karachi had a target population of 2.4 million children under five years of age and to protect them from polio, they must receive the vaccine on multiple occasions.
All private hospitals in Karachi, the Pakistan Medical Association and the Pakistan Paediatric Association have endorsed the polio vaccine and polio campaigns and advised repeated vaccination for children. This is the second case in Sindh and sixth overall in the country with one each reported in Punjab, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan.
Officials said the virus was present in the environment and it could affect children with low immunity.
“This is why we urge parents to vaccinate their children in every campaign. Please understand the virus is circulating in Karachi and if children are not vaccinated or have low immunity, it will attack them,” said an official.
“Parents who refuse to vaccinate their children must stop doing this as it will put the lives of their children in danger along with other children in the community.”
Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2017