Detection of polio virus in environmental samples of twin cities triggers alarm


ISLAMABAD: In what could be dubbed as sheer negligence of the twin cities’ administration, poliovirus has been found in environmental samples of the two cities which means that the immunity level of children in the area has fallen and they are at a high risk of contracting the disease.

Although hectic campaigns were launched in Islamabad and Rawalpindi and the concerned administration vowed to eradicate polio, they have failed to achieve much. Although authorities persistently try to approach and convince more than 2,500 parents in Rawalpindi and hundreds of parents in Islamabad, they do not allow health workers to administer polio drops to their children.

It is pertinent to mention here that the city administrations take environmental samples from the twin cities, particularly from Lui-Nullah and Islamabad site near Sabzi Mandi, on a monthly basis. The samples are taken on the 11th of every month and sent for laboratory tests. The presence of the virus is an alarming situation for the twin cities.

The Islamabad Deputy Commissioner (DC) Hamza Shafqat told Pakistan Today that a hectic polio campaign has been launched which will make sure that children up to the age of 10 years vaccinated after the virus was detected in the environmental samples.

In the federal capital, the district administration is responsible for making a strategy to administer polio drops to every single child under the age of five years in collaboration with the chief executive officer (CEO) for Health Authority, district health officer (DHO), World Health Organisation (WHO) coordinator, and other concerned authorities. The administration is also responsible for providing security to the polio teams. The life-saving drops are administered to the children up to 10 years old with a special focus on sector I-9, I-10, I-11, I-12, H-11, H-12, H-13, Naseerabad, Chishtiabad and Shams Colony.

In Rawalpindi, 13 union councils marked as sensitive due to the presence of positive polio environmental samples there would be focused on. These sensitive areas include union council 1-11, 22 and 33.

For this purpose, the district administration of Rawalpindi has constituted 2503 mobile teams, five fixed points, 120 transit points, and appointed 547 area in-charges who are to administer the polio drops.

It is important to mention here that the National Immunisation Campaign (NIC) in Islamabad had also found five positive environmental samples of polio in 2017.

According to the details, the administrations are following four steps to fight polio cases in the twin cities.

The first step is the routine immunisation by administering five injections to every newborn baby. This does not yield results as only 50 per cent of babies are given the shots. In the second step, supplementary immunisation is given to the children at their doorsteps through various government funded campaigns. The third step is surveillance to check if the polio vaccination is working or not. And in the fourth step, special teams do mop-up campaigns and revisit areas in which the polio samples were found positive or cases were detected to ensure the eradication of polio.

However, one of the key loopholes observed by this scribe is the absence of staff tasked with the administering of polio drops to children by going to their houses. The polio teams in Rawalpindi were sitting in the DHO’s office at 1:00 pm while they were supposed to be on the streets as part of the campaigns at that time.

The DHO, Tahir Rizvi, when questioned by Pakistan Today, curtly replied that the teams only go in the field in the morning.