Nigeria on red alert over polio cases in DR Congo, Syria

Director-General, Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Asishana Okauru (left); Senior Technical Adviser to the Minister of Health, Yewande Adeshina and Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuab, during a workshop meeting with executive secretaries, states and primary healthcare boards in Abuja… yesterday. PHOTO: LUCY LADIDI ELUKPO

The Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) should be on red alert as the World Health Organisation (WHO) confirmed fresh outbreak of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2s (cVDPV2s) in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Syrian Arab Republic.

The Guardian investigation revealed that the peak of the rainy season, that is June/July/August, is also the peak time for polio transmission. Last year, after more than two years without the detection of wild polio in Nigeria, the Federal Government reported three laboratory confirmed wild poliovirus type one (WPV1) cases and cVDPV2 with onset between July and August.

It is feared that despite the progress achieved since 1988, as long as a single child remains infected with poliovirus, children in all countries are at risk of contracting the disease.

According to the WHO, the poliovirus can easily be imported into a polio-free country and can spread rapidly among unimmunised populations. Failure to eradicate polio could result in as many as 200,000 new cases every year, within 10 years, all over the world.

The fear that the outbreak might get to Nigeria is further heightened because, according to the WHO, cVDPVs occur when routine or supplementary immunisation activities (SIAs) are poorly conducted and a population is left susceptible to poliovirus, whether from vaccine-derived or wild poliovirus.

It is gathered that routine and SIAs are still low and poorly conducted in Nigeria. Meanwhile, public health leaders gathered at the Rotary Convention in Atlanta, United States (U.S.), to renew commitment to securing a polio-free world. Endemic countries and donors pledged $1.2 billion (N444 billion) to finance the polio endgame.

The gathering was under the auspices of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), which was launched in 1988, and spearheaded by Rotary International. The GPEI in a statement said Rotary has, for the past three decades, brought political commitment, funding and energy to the fight against polio. At this pledging event, Rotary committed a further $150 million to the cause.



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