Polio: Pakistan PM calls emergency meeting over first case in 15 months

Health officials discovered the viral infection in a 15-month-old boy in North Waziristan

A health worker administers polio vaccine to children in Pakistan's port city of Karachi in February. EPA
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Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will hold an emergency meeting of the country's polio eradication task force on Monday after authorities detected the country's first case in 15 months.

Health officials announced the discovery of the wild polio case on Friday – a 15-month-old boy who had been paralysed by the virus in the north-western district of North Waziristan.

"Deeply saddened to share that a 15-month-old boy has been paralysed in North Waziristan," Shahzad Baig, a co-ordinator with the National Emergency Operations Centre for Pakistan's polio eradication programme, wrote on Twitter.

"Pakistan confirms a wild #poliovirus case after nearly 15 months," he said.

The country's last case was detected in January 2021, and earlier this year authorities celebrated going 12 months without a single case of the debilitating neurodegenerative disease – the first time that had occurred since eradication efforts began.

Pakistan is one of two countries, along with neighbouring Afghanistan, where polio remains endemic, although case numbers have dropped drastically in recent years.

The case in North Waziristan takes the global number of polio cases in 2022 to three, with a case also confirmed in Malawi and another in Afghanistan, according to data from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI).

The case in Malawi was confirmed in February, although the onset of paralysis came in November 2021, according to the GPEI.

Pakistani authorities said they were working on ensuring the virus does not spread further in the South Asian country.

Nigeria officially eradicated wild polio in 2020. Pakistani officials said in February they were hoping to achieve the same goal in the coming years.

To officially eradicate the disease a country must be polio-free for three consecutive years.

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Updated: April 23, 2022, 1:19 PM