Afghanistan recorded more than 350 polio cases in 2020

Kabul, Feb 8 (efe-epa).- Afghanistan recorded more than 350 cases of polio, mostly of the type 2 variant, last year marking a dramatic increase in the number of cases that authorities attribute to insecurity and restrictions due to the novel coronavirus, according to the government on Monday.

“The problem we are currently faced with is the fast transmission of the second type of polio virus. Unfortunately we have registered and identified 303 cases of the second type of polio virus in Afghanistan ,” Acting Public Health Minister Wahidullah Majroh said at a press conference in Kabul.

The type 2 variant does not exist in a “wild” state since it was last detected in India 1999, according to the World Health Organization. Moreover, it was declared eradicated in 2015.

However, Afghan authorities have detected a type 2 poliovirus derived from the circulating vaccine (cVDPV2) imported from Pakistan.

According to a WHO explanatory paper in November 2019, the oral polio vaccine (OPV) contains an attenuated vaccine virus that can undergo genetic changes giving them the ability to produce paralysis, thus creating so-called circulating poliovirus of vaccine origin (cVDPV).

This occurs in very rare cases and when the population is “subimmunized”, such as in the case of Pakistan, the only country in the world besides Afghanistan, where polio remains endemic, and where armed attacks by radical groups on vaccination teams have been one of the main obstacles in the fight against the disease.

Kabul claims that circulating poliovirus originating from the vaccine was as brought into the country by Afghans coming from Pakistan between March and July 2020.

Another 56 cases of type 1 polio was recorded last year, marking the highest number in at least a decade, most of them in the south of the country.

Majroh said the rapid spread of polio, as well as the Taliban’s lack of cooperation in vaccination campaigns, posed a “serious problem.”

“We have taken serious measures in this regard so far to control the spread of the virus,” said the minister, adding that they would carry out five rounds of polio vaccinations this year. EFE-EPA


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