Nigeria one month away from polio-free certification by WHO

Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Margaret Chan (left) and Executive Director of National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Ado Gana Muhammad,  joining hands against polio at the just concluded World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland

Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Margaret Chan (left) and Executive Director of National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Ado Gana Muhammad, joining hands against polio at the just concluded World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland

Nigeria is one month away from being certified polio-free by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The country reported the last case of Wild Polio Virus (WPV) on July 24, 2014, in Kano State.

According to the latest edition of the Weekly Polio Update published by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), no new wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) cases were reported in the past week. “No cases have been reported in 2015. Nigeria’s total WPV1 case count for 2014 remains six. The most recent case had onset of paralysis on July 24, 2014, in Sumaila Local Government Area (LGA), southern Kano state,” it reported.

Executive Director National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Ado Gana Muhammad, told The Guardian yesterday that ministers of health from around the world who attended last month’s World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva, Switzerland, adopted a landmark resolution to secure a lasting world free of all polio-disease once and for all.

Muhammad said a Subnational Immunization Days (SNIDs) campaign scheduled for June 7 to 9 is ongoing and there will be another round from July 25 to 28, 2015, in the north and east of the country.

Meanwhile, the scientific journal Nature says the largest outbreak of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus outside the Middle East is no different to previous outbreaks in the way that it spreads.

The world is watching South Korea as the latest outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) unfolds. But how exactly the virus jumps to humans in the first place is still unknown, and clues to that puzzle lie thousands of kilometres away.

The cluster of hospital-associated cases in South Korea — the largest MERS outbreak outside the Middle East — has so far killed seven people and infected 95, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Hundreds of schools have been shut. Although the causal coronavirus, MERS-CoV, is considered a potential pandemic threat, specialists told Nature that they expect authorities to quickly bring this outbreak under control.

A much bigger challenge than emergency response, they say, is how to stop MERS being transmitted from animals to people in the Middle East, where it is endemic in camels. “The focus on South Korea would be better directed towards Saudi Arabia,” says David Heymann, a researcher at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and chair of Public Health England, to stop the cases that continue to spark new outbreaks at the source.

Since it was first detected in Saudi Arabia in 2012, MERS-CoV has infected around 1,200 people worldwide, roughly 450 of whom have died, according to the WHO. The virus is thought to originate in bats and to jump to humans through an intermediate animal, such as camels. It does not easily spread between people, partly because it infects deep areas of the lungs, and is not coughed out.

Most of the human infections, however, were the result of human-to-human spread, which can occur in hospitals when certain medical procedures combine with poor infection control to disseminate the virus. The latest clusters began when a South Korean man returned to Seoul from the Middle East, and visited four health-care facilities before he was diagnosed.

There is always a chance that as the virus spreads, it could acquire mutations that allow it to spread more easily between humans. But on June 6, the South Korean health ministry announced that it had sequenced the virus in the current outbreak and that it was almost identical to past sequences from the Middle East.

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