LAHORE: Samples of water collected from Lahore’s sewage have been found to be carrying the polio virus for two consecutive months, health authorities said on Thursday.
The Department of Health Punjab confirmed the presence of the polio virus in the city’s sewerage waters after testing samples collected from Outfall Road on July 11. The crippling virus was also found in the sewage samples gathered earlier in June.
Polio, or poliomyelitis, is a crippling childhood disease caused by the polio virus, and preventable through immunisation. Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, that suffers from endemic polio, a childhood virus that can cause paralysis or death.
Terming the consistent presence of the virus in Lahore’s sewage a challenge, the health department has summoned a meeting of concerned officials over the issue.
The department has also decided to propose inclusion of all areas of the city in a polio vaccination drive commencing from August 6.
Pakistan has been battling polio for the past several years and is close to completely eradicating the disease.
The number of cases declined from 306 in 2014 to 54 in 2015, 20 in 2016 and eight in 2017. In 2018, three polio cases have so far been reported – all from Balochistan.
A country must have no cases for three consecutive years in order to be considered to have eradicated polio by the World Health Organisation.
Affecting mostly children under the age of five, polio — which has no cure and can only be prevented by giving a child multiple vaccine doses — can lead to irreversible paralysis.
According to the WHO, the number of polio cases worldwide has fallen by more than 99 percent since 1988, from an estimated 350,000 cases then to 22 reported cases in 2017.