UNICEF and partners launch emergency funding appeal for polio outbreak in Congo
New York, 23 November 2010 - UNICEF, Rotary International and the World Health Organization (WHO) have launched an emergency appeal for $23.5 million in funding in response to the explosive polio outbreak in the Republic of Congo. Stopping the outbreak is a top international public health priority due to its high fatality rate and the high risk of further national and international spread.
As of 16 November, 324 cases of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) and 146 deaths have been reported from the site of the outbreak centred in Pointe Noire. Five cases have been confirmed to have been caused by wild poliovirus type 1 and laboratory testing continues. Initial data indicates the majority of the reported cases and deaths involve young adults aged 15-29 years. Nearly all cases have been reported from the port city of Pointe Noire, with cases also reported from Niari, Bouenza, Brazzaville, and Kouilou. New cases continue to be reported.
Genetic sequencing has determined that the polio cases are caused by a poliovirus most closely related to that circulating in neighbouring Angola. Congo had recorded its last case of indigenous polio in 2000.
Three elements are central to quickly stopping this outbreak, per the World Health Assembly resolution of 2006: immediate, mass oral polio vaccine (OPV) campaigns with the appropriate type-specific vaccine (a minimum of three such campaigns, and based on other, similar outbreaks, up to eight campaigns, two to four weeks apart); mass OPV campaigns in bordering areas; heightened AFP surveillance in the country and neighbouring areas.
The response to the outbreak in Congo also includes all the new innovative emergency response approaches, including the new short interval additional doses (SIAD) strategy, which has increasingly proven to more rapidly stop outbreaks and prevent international spread. Finally, heightened surveillance must be sustained for more than 12 months to ensure that the outbreak has stopped and to guide further actions. However, conducting this type of response requires rapidly mobilizing emergency funds.
About the Global Polio Eradication Initiative
For further information, please contact:
Melissa Corkum, UNICEF East and Southern Africa,
Rod Curtis, WHO Geneva,
Samuel Ajibola, WHO/AFRO,
Christian Moen, UNICEF New York,
Petina Dixon, Rotary International,