New polio case in GB perturbs health dept, WHO

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After the declaration of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) as a polio-free region by the government in 2012, a new polio case has been confirmed, stunning the health department and World Health Organisation (WHO) on Sunday.

The fresh case of crippling polio disease was confirmed in a 14-month-old boy in Diamar district of GB, after a period of six months since the last case was reported and confirmed in 2011 in the area.

An official source at the GB health department told Pakistan Today, requesting anonymity, that National Institute of Health Islamabad (NIH) has confirmed polio case in Nisar Ahmed, son of Haji Shah, a resident of Thor valley of district Diamar.

According to him, the 14-year-old boy was paralysed and subsequently admitted to a government hospital for treatment. His reports and sample were later sent to NIH for confirmation four months ago. The NIH, after the break of four months, had informed the GB health department that the boy was indeed infected with polio disease.

The development, which was surprising for GB government and WHO, has rejected the tall claims of the health department in the area of making GB a polio-free region in Pakistan. WHO, as sources claim, showing its serious displeasure on the detection of a new case, despite an investment of billions of rupees in the polio eradication move, has constituted a committee to visit the area shortly. The committee will inspect the case besides analysing the negligence on the part of the health department and others reasons behind the case.

According to doctors the weak immunity or ineffective immunisation may be the cause.

On the other hand, the health department in GB has decided to urgently start an emergency anti-polio campaign in Diamar district and other polio risk districts of the region. Through text messages, the department has informed the doctors and concerned staff in Gilgit and Diamar district, where the religious element has also been a hurdle for polio vaccination drive.

The emergency immunisation campaign in the area will be started from March 16 to be continued until March 19, 2017. Before that campaign, the GB health department will also organise campaign workshop of health supervisors in Gilgit on March 14.

It is pertinent to mention here that a polio case was detected in 2011 in another resident of Diamer after he, along with his family, had returned from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa after a few months. In 2012, GB was declared polio-free in Pakistan.