BAJAUR: Two new cases of polio have surfaced in the Bajaur district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, health officials confirmed on Thursday.

According to officials in the KP Health Department, a five-year-old girl from Kut Kot fell victim to the virus while a seven-year-old boy has also been diagnosed with polio.

The officialssaid both the children had been administered the polio vaccine seven times.

The latest cases in Bajaur take the number of polio cases in the region to three for this year, and eight in Pakistan overall.

Polio, or poliomyelitis, is a crippling childhood disease caused by the polio virus, and is preventable through immunisation.

Pakistan has been battling polio for the past several years and is close to completely eradicating the disease. The number of cases declined from 306 in 2014 to 54 in 2015, 20 in 2016 and eight in 2017. In 2018, eight polio cases have so far been reported.

A country must have no cases for three consecutive years in order to be considered to have eradicated polio by the World Health Organisation.

Affecting mostly children under the age of five, polio which has no cure and can only be prevented by giving a child multiple vaccine doses can lead to irreversible paralysis.

According to the WHO, the number of polio cases worldwide has fallen by more than 99 percent since 1988, from an estimated 350,000 cases then to 22 reported cases in 2017.