Pakistan could beat polio in months: WHO

ISLAMABAD: Polio could be eradicated in Pakistan within months, health officials said, as a mass vaccination drive is launched.

A World Health Organisation spokesman said only a handful of cases have been reported this year in Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan.

It is hoped millions of children will be vaccinated over three days.

The WHO’s representative for Pakistan, Dr Michel Thieren said about 70,000 medical staff aimed to immunise almost 10 million children in the drive, which is taking place in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and tribal areas in the north-west, as well as in south-west Balochistan province, the BBC reported.

“They have with them 12 million doses for the coming three days,” he said.

“We are very close. A handful of cases were noticed this year-about 11 in Pakistan and I think about five in Afghanistan,” he said.

“This is the lowest toll of cases in history. We expect to be within months of polio elimination in Pakistan,” he said.

Health teams gained access to formerly hostile regions in the north-west after the Pakistani military launched a 2014 offensive against the militants in North Waziristan.

Polio (poliomyelitis) is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus which invades the nervous system. It mainly affects children aged under five.

Cases have fallen dramatically since polio eradication programmes were introduced; from 350,000 globally in 1988 to around 70 in 2015.-APP