• Saturday, July 20, 2024
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War against polio: Nigeria reports single case in 2014


Nigeria is one of the most entrenched reservoirs of wild poliovirus in the world. It is the only country with ongoing transmission of all three serotypes: wild poliovirus type 1, wild poliovirus type 3, and circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2. States in the north of the country are the main source of polio infections elsewhere in Nigeria and in neighbouring countries.

In 2009, operational improvements in these northern states led to a 90 percent decline in cases of wild poliovirus type 1 and a 50 percent decline in overall cases compared with 2008.

Nigeria recorded tremendous achievements in 2013 with at least 58 percent reduction in the number of WPV1 cases compared to 2012. There has been no case of WPV3 in 2013 with the last WPV3 case in November 2012.

Overall, there has also been a 50 percent reduction in the number of infected LGA in 2013 compared to 2012 with the geographical restriction of cases to four states (Borno, Yobe, Kano and Bauchi) accounting for 84 percent of the total cases in 2013.

Nigeria has reported only one case of polio so far in 2014, and only six between September-December 2013 – the bulk of the traditional “high season” for polio. Commitment from all levels and a series of innovative strategies are dramatically increasing the number of children reached with vaccines: between February 2013 and January 2014, the number of highest-risk districts meeting targets for vaccine coverage jumped from 51 percent to more than 80 percent.

“We must not allow the 2015 election to set Nigeria back in the polio eradication race… We must engage the press, civil society organisations, parents and academics to call governments’ attention to health in general and polio eradication in particular,” says Oyewale Tomori, chairman of Nigeria’s expert review committee on polio eradication.

Tomori adds that the benefits of eradication extend beyond polio: “The latest and greatest beneficiary of the polio activities in Nigeria is routine immunisation (RI). The polio programme recognised that ending polio and strengthening immunisation went hand in hand, and in 2012 made serious efforts to ensure that eradication programmes enhance RI. Today, the country is reaping the benefits of high RI coverage, evident in the much reduced number of polio cases.”

Experts have advised that it is important that all countries, in particular those with frequent travel and contacts with polio-affected countries and areas, strengthen surveillance for acute flaccid paralysis cases in order to rapidly detect any new virus importation and to facilitate a rapid response.

They also recommend that countries, territories and areas should also maintain uniformly high routine immunisation coverage at the district level to minimise the consequences of any new virus introduction.

WHO’s International Travel and Health recommends that all travellers to and from polio-affected areas be fully vaccinated against polio.

Kemi Ajumobi