WHO (The World Health Organization) has confirmed reports of two new cases of polio in Nigeria after over two years without the virus in the country. This is in line with a report by the Nigerian government that two children have been rendered physically challenged as a result of the disease in Borno State, Northern Nigeria.
In a bid to act swiftly by prioritizing the situation, the Nigerian Government is collaborating withThe World Health Organizationand other stakeholders within the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (a program designed to fight the condition) to prevent more children in the country from suffering the same fate.
The steps taken include carryingout large-scale immunization campaigns alongwith strengthening surveillance systems so as to catch the virus early. Thisinitiativeis also being carriedout in neighboring Nations.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the Regional Director of the WHO for Africa said in a statement:
“We are saddened by the reports that two Nigerian children have been affected by polio. We are pleased to inform you that the Government and WHO have made significant progress to stop this disease in recent years.”
“Ourtop priority now is to immunize all the children in the affected regions and ensure that no one elsecontacts this terrible disease,” Moeti added.
The genetic sequence of the virus suggests that these new cases are closely related to a wild strain that was last detected in Borno State in the year 2011. A low-level transmission of the virusisn’tunexpected (especially in regions where it isn’teasy toreach children andvaccinate them). Subnational surveillance gaps arepresent in some parts of Borno along with parts of the neighboring countries.
Nigeria is on courseto eradicate polio according to the Director of polio eradication at the WHO HQ Dr. Michel Zaffran.
Only as recently as 2012, thecountry accounted for over half the number of polio cases in the globe. But as at 24 July 2016, the country had made significant progress in the fight against the virus, havingmarkeda record 2 years without a single case of polio. This wassuccessfully achieved as a result of the effort put in by different levels of government, religious leaders, civil society and anumber of dedicated health workers.
Some recent stepssuch as the establishment of Emergency Operations Centers at both Federal and State levels,along with increased community involvement have been pivotal to Nigeria’s ability to haltthe outbreaks.
The two new cases in Nigeria highlight the need to maintain the cold chain of preserving and transporting the vaccines, prioritize the immunization of children wholive in the hard-to-reach regions (such as Lake Chad which spans through several countries thatare often affected by large population movementsand conflict). Reaching the children in these areas willrequire vaccinating the populations (as they either move in and/or out ofthe inaccessible areas)with the help of local level organizations (including community based groups and religious institutions).
On a global scale the world is closer to polio eradication. As of August 2016 only 21 polio cases have been confirmed worldwide compared to the 34 cases reported at this same time last year.