● cripples two children in Borno
● WHO expresses sorrow but confident that Nigeria will eradicate virus
The Minister of Health, Prof.Isaac Adewole has confirmed an outbreak o7hf wild polio virus (WPV) in Borno State.
According to a statement signed by Olajide Oshundun, the health ministry’s assistant director , Press & Public Relations, the outbreak involved affected two children from Gwoza and Jere Local Government Areas (LGA) of the State.
The discovery and confirmation of the outbreak was reported to be as a result of strengthened surveillance due to improved accessibility which has been made possible by the recent military action in liberating more communities in the North-Eastern part of the country.
The Minister said the detection of children paralyzed by polio shows that surveillance has increased with more access but it is a reminder that the country needs to remain vigilant and immunize all eligible children with polio vaccine until polio is completely eradicated worldwide.
“Our overriding priority right now is to rapidly boost immunity in the affected areas to ensure that no more children are affected by this terrible disease.” He added.
According to the release, the Minister has directed the deployment of a national emergency response team, comprising government and partners to Borno State for immediate and robust polio vaccination campaign, targeting eligible children to prevent the spread of the virus locally and internationally.
It stated furthe that the Federal Ministry of Health, through the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) with the support of partners including WHO and UNICEF are conducting detailed risk analysis to clearly ascertain the extent of circulation of the virus, and to assess overall levels of population immunity in order to guide the response.
As an immediate response, about one million children are to be immunised in four local government areas in Borno State. Children in adjoining states of Yobe, Adamawa and Gombe will also be immunized bringing the number to about five million in the four states.
Prof.Adewole reiterates the Federal Government’s commitment to achieving a polio-free Nigeria and assures the general public that this outbreak will be controlled as soon as possible adding that government will provide the needed resources to contain it.
He therefore called on other states and local governments to redouble their efforts by safeguarding their territories from importation of the virus by providing the required leadership and ensuring accountability among healthcare workers and other stakeholders.
A statement by the World Health Organisation also confirmed the outbreak but expressed confidence that the Nigerian government would be able to rid the country of the crippling virus once and for all.
“We are deeply saddened by the news that two Nigerian children have been paralyzed by polio. The Government has made significant strides to stop this paralyzing disease in recent years. The overriding priority now is to rapidly immunize all children around the affected area and ensure that no other children succumb to this terrible disease”, said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
According to the organization, genetic sequencing of the viruses suggests that the new cases are most closely linked to a wild poliovirus strain last detected in Borno in 2011.
“Low-level transmission of the poliovirus is not unexpected, particularly in areas where it is difficult to reach children with the vaccine. Subnational surveillance gaps persist in some areas of Borno, as well as in areas of neighbouring countries.
“We are confident that with a swift response and strong collaboration with the Nigerian Government, we can soon rid the country of polio once and for all. This is an important reminder that the world cannot afford to be complacent as we are on the brink of polio eradication – we will only be done when the entire world has been certified polio-free,” said Dr. Michel Zaffran, Director of polio eradication at WHO Headquarters.
As recently as 2012, Nigeria accounted for more than half of all polio cases worldwide, but the country has made significant strides, recently marking two years without a case on 24 July 2016. This progress has been the result of a concerted effort by all levels of government, civil society, religious leaders and tens of thousands of dedicated health workers.
Recent steps including increased community involvement and the establishment of Emergency Operations Centers at the national and state level have been pivotal to Nigeria’s capacity to respond to outbreaks.
WHO stressed that the two cases in Nigeria particularly highlight the need to prioritize immunization of children in hard-to-reach areas such as the Lake Chad region, which spans several countries and is often affected by conflict and large population movements. Reaching these children requires vaccinating populations as they move in and out of inaccessible areas and using local-level groups and organizations, such as religious institutions and community based organizations, to negotiate access for vaccination teams.
“Globally, the world is very close to reaching the goal of polio eradication. Only 21 wild polio cases have been reported so far in 2016, compared to 34 cases at the same point last year. Only two other countries are reporting polio: Pakistan and Afghanistan. Four out of the six WHO Regions of the world have been certified polio-free, and only one of the three types of wild poliovirus is still circulating in the world (type 1).”