Middle East

Egypt anti-polio drive after Pakistan-link virus found

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Media captionAleem Maqbool: "The strain of polio found here matches the strain of polio found in southern Pakistan"

An emergency polio vaccination programme is to be carried out in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, after samples of the virus were found in sewage.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the strain of virus matches one found in southern Pakistan.

No-one in Cairo has shown any symptoms of the disease and there have been no cases of polio in Egypt since 2004.

An anti-polio drive in Pakistan was suspended last month after nine workers were killed by suspected militants.

There has been a huge effort to eradicate polio from the three countries where it is still endemic - Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.

The WHO said that samples of sewage in the Dar Es Salaam and Ezbet Hagana areas of Cairo was found to contain a strain of the virus also found in the city of Sukkur, south Pakistan.

The virus was discovered during a routine survey.

Health officials say the virus was either brought by a Pakistani or an Egyptian who had recently visited Pakistan.

The BBC's Islamabad reporter Aleem Maqbool, who is in Cairo, says the discovery has revived fears that polio could once again spread to countries where it has been eradicated.

In December, UN children's agency Unicef and the WHO suspended work in Sindh province in south Pakistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the north-west, following the deaths of health workers taking part in an anti-polio drive.

No group has said it carried out the killings, but the Taliban have issued threats against the UN's anti-polio efforts.

Militants have accused health workers of working as US spies and say the vaccine makes children sterile.

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