Polio Virus Subtype Possibly Eliminated in Pakistan
No new reports of type 3 polio virus have been made in the country in six months.
-- by Jenara Nerenberg
The GistPolio is a crippling disease caused by a virus that is currently only found in Pakistan, Nigeria, and Afghanistan. Pakistan is now reporting that one of the virus subtypes, type 3, may actually be eliminated from the country, as no new reports of it have been filed in the past six months. The research being released this week at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene's (ASTMH) annual meeting is a follow-up on earlier findings that the virus is still a problem in Pakistan due to certain false beliefs and misinformed attitudes toward vaccination that still hold among the country's hard-to-reach communities, such as nomadic groups. Fear of sterility and HIV infection are two examples. As such, this latest report is a boon to the worldwide effort to eradicate the disease, a movement which has financial backing from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Nations, among others.
The Expert Take"I think 2014 is realistic for Pakistan if we can tackle the persistent reservoirs," study author Anita Zaidi told Healthline regarding a possible timeframe for polio to be eradicated from the country.
"Efforts should focus on building trust through grassroots efforts using community elders in populations with high vaccine refusal rates," said Zaidi. "By providing vaccination at mass transit sites such as bus routes used to travel up-country throughout the year, we can at least isolate the viral reservoirs and make sure we avoid what happened last year, which was exporting the virus to China."
According to Zaidi's research, the barriers to vaccination and elimination stem largely from negative beliefs and attitudes and as such require a community-based approach to change people's mindsets. By using community influencers, those at risk may be more likely to accept polio vaccination.