A polio outburst is expected in Nigeria, as the first two confirmed cases of polio emerge. The two cases were confirmed in northeast Nigeria, according to the World Health Organization. The polio virus can cause paralysis.
This unfortunate turn of events diminished hopes of health officials to curb the development of the polio virus on the African continent. According to the World Health Organization, a continent or a country needs to be polio-free for at least three years, in order for polio to be considered eradicated in that area. The last polio virus found in Nigeria was in July 2014. The last continental case happened in Somalia, a month after.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, regional director for the World Health Organization in Africa felt “deeply saddened” by the news. Now, the top priority is to give immunization to children in the affected area.
The polio virus leads to paralysis in one out of every two hundred cases. In remote areas, these cases are never reported, so health officials believe the virus is a lot more encountered than these two new cases suggest.
Before the Thursday case, the last recorded cases of paralysis were found in the Middle East – Pakistan and Afghanistan.
In 2012 even, Nigeria had over half of the polio cases worldwide. Blocking polio transmission on the African continent was considered a public health breakthrough. Just two serious diseases – smallpox and rinderpest (an animal disease) have ever disappeared from the face of the Earth. In both cases, the last known cases were in Africa.
Upon genetic sequencing of the Nigerian virus, it was found that the newest cases were caused by a wild virus found in Borno State, Nigeria. The virus has been around ever since 2011, without being detected.
Raids by the Boko Haram, an Islamic extremist militia, which culminated with the kidnapping of 200 Chibok school girls two years ago, and the fights between Boko Haram and the Army of Nigeria, have isolated many areas.
This is why vaccine and surveillance health specialists did not have access to these areas, previously.
Although the cases of polio are seen as a setback, organizations will continue to boost efforts in order to stop further transmission – according to John F. Vertefeuille, director of polio eradication from the Centers for Disease Control.
Image Source – Wikipedia