city launches new polio campaign after rare strain found
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[January 03, 2017]
By Gul Yousafzai
QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistan began
a special five-day polio immunisation campaign in the southwestern city
of Quetta on Monday for children under five after a rare strain of the
virus was found in sewage samples, officials said.
Local officials said they had recruited Muslim clerics to promote
the immunisations for 400,000 children after past programmes were
met with resistance and even violence by extremists.
"The religious leaders were ... asking the people to give their
children anti-polio drops in their sermons in the mosques in rural
areas of Baluchistan," said Syed Faisal Ahmed, coordinator of the
local Emergency Operation Centre.
Pakistan is one of just three countries in the world, along with
Afghanistan and Nigeria, that have endemic polio, a once-common
childhood virus that can cause paralysis or death.
Last year, Pakistan reported a record low of 19 cases, Ahmed said,
with only one of them in Baluchistan province, of which Quetta is
The new campaign follows the detection of the rare Type 2 strain of
polio in sewage samples taken by the World Health Organization in
November, Ahmed said. The WHO reported the findings last week.
No cases of the Type 2 strain have been reported in humans in Quetta
but it has been added to the vaccine as a precaution. The more
common type of polio is Type 1, with no human cases of Type 2
reported for more than a decade.
"We have achieved major goals in combating polio disease, but still
we have to strive more to declare Pakistan a polio-free country,"
Immunisation efforts have in the past been hampered by Islamist
militants. Last January, a suicide bomber killed 15 people outside a
vaccination centre in Quetta in an attack claimed by the Pakistani
Taliban and another militant group, Jundullah.
Militants in Pakistan have previously alleged the immunisation
campaigns are a cover for Western spies.
[to top of second column]
The doctor believed to have helped the CIA track down the deceased
al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden - architect of the 2001 attacks on
the United States - has been accused of using a fake vaccination
campaign to collect DNA samples.
Bin Laden was killed in a covert raid by U.S. special forces in 2011
in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad, where he was living, straining
ties between the U.S. and Pakistan.
Pakistan sentenced alleged U.S. facilitator Dr. Shakil Afridi in
2012 to 33 years in jail on charges of belonging to militant group
Lashkar-e-Islam, which he denies. That sentence was overturned but
he remains in jail charged with murder relating to the death of a
(Edits last paragraph to name doctor alleged to have helped track
Osama bin Laden and clarify it was the doctor, not bin Laden, jailed
(Writing by Kay Johnson; editing by Richard Lough)
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