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Unknown polio-virus outbreak in Balochistan sets off alarm bells

Unknown polio-virus outbreak in Balochistan sets off alarm bellsIslamabad, Dec. 3 : The outbreak of an unknown strain of polio virus in Qilla Abdullah and Pishin districts in Balochistan has set alarm bells ringing and has prompted the centre to ask the provincial government to launch an anti-polio campaign in the region within 30 days.

Ten cases of the new virus, named "Sabin-like type 2 poliovirus", were reported in two Pakhtun-dominated districts of the province over the past three weeks, reports The Dawn.

"The districts are frequented by people from the troubled areas of FATA. The situation is grim because of refusal by parents to get their children vaccinated against the crippling disease as the areas are under the influence of extremist groups opposed to the anti-polio drive," said Zohra Yusuf, chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).

"The extremists belonging to Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan have established their cells in Balochistan and warn people against vaccination of their children," Yusuf added.

She said the people who mostly migrated from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and other tribal areas brought the virus with them.

The Prime Minister Office has also declared ''red alert'' against the poor state of polio eradication drive in Balochistan and asked the administration to launch an emergency campaign in the province.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister, Shehnaz Wazirali, has conveyed the utter disappointment of the highest office in response to the way polio eradication drive is being carried out in Balochistan.

"I want to draw your attention to the reporting of Sabin-like polio virus cases in Qilla Abdullah and two from neighbouring Afghanistan," Wazirali said in the letter.

"Stubbornness of the provincial health department and government supervisors for polio eradication in Balochistan is one of the biggest reasons behind dismal performance of the polio programme that has resulted in detection of new strain of poliovirus in Pakistan and threatens to impose travel restrictions on citizens that may put the country in an extremely embarrassing situation in the near future," the letter said.

Meanwhile, a special six-member international delegation of the World Health Organisation is currently holding discussions with officials of the Balochistan government on ways of combating the new strain of poliomyelitis virus. (ANI)