Somalia, 23 May 2013: Six years after its last reported case, polio outbreak confirmed in Somalia
Millions of children at risk of life-long polio-paralysis
23 May 2013 - The first confirmed case of the Wild Poliovirus in more than six years has been reported in Somalia. The case occurred in a two-year old girl from the capital Mogadishu.
As polio is an infectious disease which spreads rapidly, millions of children across Somalia are now at risk of life-long polio-paralysis. As the case was confirmed, the Government immediately carried out a four day emergency vaccination campaign in Banadir, and in the neighbouring district of Afgoye.
The local communities have come together to support the health authorities in this efforts to rapidly stop the outbreak. From 26 May to 1 June 2013, a second campaign will target all children under the age of 10 in Mogadishu and children under the age of five in other regions of South Central and North East Somalia with the polio vaccine.
“It is critical that all children are protected from this devastating disease,” said Dr Maryan Qasim, Human Development and Public Services Minister for the Federal Government of Somalia in Mogadishu. “That is why we carried out the first round in the immediate, affected area, and now we are also starting to vaccinate children elsewhere in the country.”
Experts are particularly concerned as in some areas of South Central Somalia, immunization activities have not taken place in more than three years. The Somali Government urges all parents to be aware of this serious risk to their children’s health and to get them vaccinated.
“There is no cure for polio. But it can be prevented through giving children several doses of the oral polio vaccination,” said Dr Qasim. “The vaccination is essential protection for children and I urge all parents to make sure that their children get vaccinated now.”
Experts warned the outbreak could spread to neighbouring countries and a surveillance alert for polio has been issued to all countries across the Horn of Africa.
Somalia reported its last indigenous Wild Poliovirus case in 2002. In 2005, there was an explosive outbreak causing a total of 228 cases. With intensified polio immunization response, the circulation was stopped and Somalia reached polio free status again in 2007. Since then preventive polio immunization activities have been widely implemented.
Global polio eradication efforts have reduced the number of polio cases from 350,000 annually in 1988 to just 223 last year, the lowest number ever recorded. Three countries remain polio endemic (Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan) and are the only other countries to report poliovirus in 2013. As long as polio exists anywhere in the world, all children are at risk from polio.
Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious disease caused by the polio virus which invades the nervous system, and can cause irreversible paralysis (usually in the legs) or even death in a matter of hours. The polio virus (scientifically known as the Wild Poliovirus - WPV) enters through the mouth, in water or food contaminated with faecal material from an infected person. The virus multiplies in the intestine and is excreted by the infected person in faeces, which can pass on the virus to others.
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