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WHO puts Zambia on high Polio alert 


THE World Health Organisation (WHO) has put Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Mozambique, and on high alert after a wild poliovirus case was detected in Malawi.

The WHO said additional vaccinations for children under the age of five in Malawi and neighbouring countries including Zambia would be administered shortly.

Malawi has scheduled a mass supplemental polio vaccination response targeting (children under the age of five), using the Bivalent Oral Polio Vaccine (BOPV) recommended by the WHO and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative GPEI partners for type 1, wild poliovirus.

Dr Janet Kayita, the acting WHO representative in Malawi said they were fully equipped for the challenge ahead. 

“We have all the necessary tools and all the necessary tactics to successfully stop this outbreak. The key is to optimise operations and now ensure that every child is reached with the life-saving polio vaccine,” she said.

“Four rounds of polio vaccination campaigns are planned. All the neighbouring countries Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia had been alerted and are planning to conduct immunization campaigns as well,” the WHO said in a statement.

All countries that had eradicated polio used the BOPV to interrupt person-to-person transmission of the virus. It is also a relatively low-cost vaccine at US20 cents for countries that access it through the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The emergence of wild polio is of grave concern because Africa was declared polio free in August 2020.

The case that was detected in Malawi, according to lab tests, is linked to a strain that has been circulating in Pakistan’s Sindh province since 2019.

The Malawian government, with the help of the WHO, has deepened investigations to determine “the extent of the risk” and search for any further cases to mount an effective response. Part of the response entails contact tracing of people linked to the young child who contracted the virus and the setting up of sites to detect cases in two districts.

“Environmental surveillance for polioviruses has now been established in six sites in two districts. These include Lilongwe District, which encompasses the capital Lilongwe where the initial, and so far the only case, was detected. Other sites are in Blantyre, Mzuzu, and Zomba cities,” the WHO said.

Malawi declared a wild polio outbreak on February 17, following confirmation of the virus type and It’s the first case of wild poliovirus in Malawi since 1992.


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