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Peshawar is World Biggest Reservoir of Polio Viruses

Posted by on Saturday, January 18, 2014, 10:58
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Pakistan’s volatile northwestern city of Peshawar is the largest reservoir of endemic polio viruses in the world, the World Health Organization said on Friday, amid concerns over continuing violence against polio vaccination teams.

Polio Vaccination in Peshawar

Polio Vaccination in Peshawar

The international group called for urgent action to boost vaccination to prevent the crippling disease.

According to the WHO, 83 out of 91 polio cases in the country during the last year are genetically linked to the poliovirus circulating actively in Peshawar. Moreover, 12 out of the total 13 cases reported during the previous year from Afghanistan are also directly linked to Peshawar.

Since For the last four years, samples of sewage water from throughout the country are periodically tested for presence of poliovirus in the environment. 86 samples of sewage water were collected from different locations of Peshawar since the last four years, and 72 of these samples have shown the presence of the highly contagious and paralytic wild poliovirus strain.

During the last 6 months, all the samples collected from various locations of Peshawar have shown presence of the highly contagious wild poliovirus strain in the environment.

Pakistan is also the only polio-endemic country in the world where polio cases rose from 2012 to 2013, the statement said. There were 91 cases last year but only 58 the year before.

Polio can permanently paralyse or kill victims within hours of infection. Intensive vaccination campaigns have almost eradicated the disease worldwide, but it remains endemic in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

In Pakistan, Taliban commanders have forbidden vaccination teams access in some areas. A handful of religious leaders have also denounced the campaign as a plot to sterilize Muslim children.

The rhetoric has fueled violence against the vaccination teams. Many teams travel only with police protection. Last year there were more than 30 attacks on polio teams.
But Dr. Elias Durry, the head of the WHO’s polio eradication program in Pakistan, emphasised that campaigns in most parts of the country had been successful.

“The virus has not been seen in all parts of Pakistan,” he said. “It’s in very limited areas that we have problems in accessing.”

Some of the attacks took place in Peshawar, the capital of northern Khyber Paktunkhwa province. The city is plagued by Taliban and sectarian violence. Many families fleeing the Taliban insurgency in the north seek refuge there.

Peshawar’s huge, mobile population and poor sanitation make it an ideal incubating ground for the disease. More than 90 percent of Pakistani polio cases last year were linked to a strain of disease found in the Peshawar sewers.

All but one of the 13 cases in Afghanistan were also linked to Peshawar, WHO said.

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