Anti-Polio Drive Launched After Rare Virus Attack In Southwestern Pakistan

By Christie Abagon , Jan 03, 2017 09:51 PM EST

A five-day polio immunization campaign for children under five years old was launched in Southwestern Pakistan after a rare strain of virus was found in sewage samples. Health officials said 1,345 teams will cover 39 local councils of the city amid tight security.

Previous Polio Programs Were Met With Resistance By Extremists

Polio is a viral disease of the brain and spinal cord which can cause irreversible paralysis. There is currently no cure for polio, but it can be prevented.

According to Washington Post, about 400,000 children will be immunized. Local officials have recruited Muslim clerics to promote the anti-polio drive since past programs were met with resistance and even violence by extremists. In January of last year, a suicide bomber killed 15 people outside a vaccination centre in Quetta. The attack was claimed by Taliban and another militant group, Jundullah.

Syed Faisal Ahmed, coordinator of the local Emergency Operation Centre, in their sermons in the mosques in rural areas of Baluchistan, religious leaders asked people to give their children anti-polio drops. Pakistani militants have previously alleged the immunization campaigns are a cover for Western spies.

Pakistan Is One Of Three Countries In The World With Endemic Polio

Type 2 strain polio was detected by the World Health Organization in November, Fox News reported. Pakistan, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, are the only countries in the world that have endemic polio.

No cases of the rare polio strain have been reported in humans, but it has been added to the vaccine as a precaution. No cases of Type 2 have been reported for more than a decade now, health officials confirm. "We have achieved major goals in combating polio disease, but still we have to strive more to declare Pakistan a polio-free country," Ahmed said.

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