Total number of infected in first seven months of 2014 now at 99, compared to 91 in all of 2013.
Pakistan’s National Institute of Health (NIH) on Saturday confirmed that five new cases of the poliovirus had been discovered, raising the total number of infected so far this year to 99, compared to 91 in all of 2013.
The new cases consist of a 24-month-old child who was administered three doses of the polio virus vaccine, and an 18-month-old who was never vaccinated from North Waziristan; an 18-month-old from South Waziristan who was never vaccinated; a 24-month-old from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province whose family refused to allow health workers to administer the oral polio vaccine; and a 21-month-old from Karachi who was administered five doses of the polio vaccine.
The Prime Minister’s Polio Monitoring and Coordination Cell has warned that the polio outbreak in Pakistan can only be beaten back if health workers are allowed access to children in the country’s tribal areas with the support of all relevant stakeholders. Polio vaccination campaigns have been suspended in the North and South Waziristan tribal agencies since June 2012 due to the ongoing security threat.
The military launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb on June 15, causing over 900,000 residents of North Waziristan to seek refuge in Bannu. Army checkpoints on the route administer polio vaccinations to all incoming tribesmen. However, the polio vaccine administered at the checkpoints is merely the first dose for the majority of fleeing tribesmen. Public health officials say this is insufficient to respond to the outbreak.
According to the polio monitoring cell, there have been 73 cases of polio reported from the tribal areas—six in South Waziristan, 57 in North Waziristan, eight in Khyber Agency, and two in Bannu—with another 17 from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, and nine from Sindh province.
On June 1, Pakistan adopted new guidelines recommended by the World Health Organization and now requires travelers visiting or leaving Pakistan to be vaccinated for polio at least four weeks prior to any tour.