Poliovirus detected in Karachi’s sewage samples

M. Waqar Bhatti
Friday, Jun 09, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Karachi’s first detection of wild poliovirus in 2023 has been confirmed in environmental samples from the notorious UC-4 Gadap Town Karachi, Coordinator for National Emergency Operation Center (NEOC) Dr Shahzad Baig said on Thursday. Quoting Pakistan Polio Laboratory at the National Institutes of Health, he said the sample was collected on May 15 and its genetic sequencing is still awaited. The last positive sample in Karachi was detected in August 2022 from Landhi, district Malir. Dr Shahzad Baig, Coordinator for the National Emergency Operations Centre for Polio Eradication, said the Programme is well-prepared to respond to any virus detection anywhere in the country. He added: “Poliovirus moves with people. We are taking all steps necessary to ensure that we vaccinate children and eliminate the virus wherever we find it.” Commenting on the situation, Federal Minister for Health Abdul Qadir Patel has said that Pakistan is committed to eradicating polio and ensuring a healthier future for children. “The swift detection of the virus in the environment highlights that we are maintaining the highest standard of polio surveillance, but it also means children are at constant risk.”

He added that polio eradication is a collective national responsibility and parents must ensure repeated polio vaccination and essential immunization for their children to boost their immunity. Karachi, among the most populous cities in the world and home to communities from across Pakistan, is a historic polio reservoir and remains among areas categorized by the programme at high risk of wild poliovirus transmission. The virus detection in Karachi is not unexpected given the frequent population movement between the city and the rest of the country. The Polio Programme has successfully contained the virus in the southern districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa despite the virus being detected in several areas, highlighting the strength and sensitivity of the virus surveillance network across Pakistan and the success of vaccination campaigns.