Federal Minister for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination, Abdul Qadir Patel on Tuesday renewed the government’s commitment to completely eradicate the crippling disease of polio from the country. In a statement, he said that Pakistan and Afghanistan were working together in their fight against polio. He said that while the isolation of the virus was a cause of concern, it was excellent to note that it was detected promptly. This timely detection of the virus in the environment was crucial to protecting children from being paralyzed by the poliovirus, he added. Patel said, “The only way to stop the virus is to vaccinate all children under the age of five. It is critically important that parents and caregivers, particularly in Lahore, ensure that their child is vaccinated in the February round.” Dr Shahzad Baig, Coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC), said this is not unexpected since Pakistan and Afghanistan are considered as one epidemiological block in which polio viruses move across borders as there is widespread population movement. “In the past year, we have worked very closely with the Afghanistan programme and treat the virus in either country as our own. Neither Pakistan nor Afghanistan can be free of polio until both countries can interrupt transmission,” Dr Baig said. Pakistan’s first detection of wild polio virus in 2023 has been detected in an environmental sample in Lahore. The virus found in Gulshan Ravi has links to a poliovirus found in Nangahar, Afghanistan last November, the Pakistan Polio Laboratory at the National Institute of Health (NIH) said. The nationwide immunization campaign that concluded on January 20th vaccinated children in the Lahore division, while additional campaigns will also be conducted in February and March to address the outbreak. The last polio case from Lahore was reported in July 2020, but the virus has been periodically detected in its sewage water. Last year, four environmental samples were found positive for wild poliovirus in Lahore district. Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by poliovirus mainly affecting children under the age of five years. It invades the nervous system and can cause paralysis or even death. While there is no cure for polio, vaccination is the most effective way to protect children from this crippling disease. Each time a child under the age of five is vaccinated, their protection against the virus is increased. Repeated immunizations have protected millions of children from polio, allowing almost all countries in the world to become polio-free, besides the two endemic countries of Pakistan and Afghanistan.