Pakistan has broken a 14-year-old record for the highest number of recorded polio cases in a year. More than 200 cases have been detected in the country so far in 2014, according to media reports published Saturday.
Rana Mohammad Safdar, a senior official at the National Institute of Health in the Pakistani capital city of Islamabad, told the Associated Press that 202 cases of polio were recorded between January and October, which is higher than the previous record of 199 recorded cases in 2001.
“New polio cases are surfacing because of those children who could not be immunized against the disease in tribal regions,” Safdar told AP.
Of the 202 cases, 15 were detected in the last two days, an unnamed official at the Pakistan National Institute of Health told Agence France-Presse.
“All these cases were recorded in the areas where we have security problems,” Saira Afzal Tarar, Pakistan’s deputy minister for health, said. Most of the infections have been recorded in the northwestern tribal region where militants have targeted health workers and doctors suspected of being American spies, according to media reports.
Officials quoted by AFP said that 136 cases were reported from the Taliban and al Qaeda strongholds in the northwest along the country’s border with Afghanistan.
Since December 2012, nearly 60 people, including health workers and police personnel providing security to medical teams, have been killed by militants in Pakistan.
In 2013, there were 400 reported cases of polio worldwide -- a 99 percent decline from 1988, when 350,000 cases were reported, according to a World Health Organization report. Pakistan is just one of three countries where polio remains endemic, the other two being Nigeria and Afghanistan.