Malawian Health Authorities Declare Wild Poliovirus Outbreak

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Health authorities in Malawi have declared an outbreak of wild poliovirus type 1 after a case was detected in a young child in the capital, Lilongwe.

Pharmanewsonline reports that this is the first case of wild poliovirus in more than five years, and all hands are on deck to prevent the proliferation.

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis within hours. While there is no cure for polio, the disease can be prevented through administration of a simple and effective vaccine.

Baby receiving vaccine

Following the outbreak, the country has received support from the World Health Organisation (WHO) to carry out a risk assessment and outbreak response, including supplemental immunisation.

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In addition, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) Rapid Response Team, which is based at the WHO Regional Office in Africa, is sending a team to Malawi to support coordination, surveillance, data management, communications, and operations.

Laboratory analysis has shown that the strain of the wild poliovirus detected in Malawi is linked to the one that has been circulating in Sindh Province in Pakistan. Polio remains endemic in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In August 2020, Africa was declared free of indigenous wild poliovirus after eliminating all forms of wild poliovirus from the region. Nigeria had been the last country in Africa to be cleared of the virus.

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According to a statement released by WHO Africa, this incidence will not affect Africa’s polio-free certification status because it is considered an imported case from Pakistan.

“Following the detection of wild polio in Malawi, we’re taking urgent measures to forestall its potential spread. Thanks to a high level of polio surveillance in the continent and the capacity to quickly detect the virus, we can swiftly launch a rapid response and protect children from the debilitating impact of this disease,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO, Regional Director for Africa.

According to Dr Modjirom Ndoutabe, Polio Coordinator in the WHO Regional Office for Africa, “Any case of wild poliovirus is a significant event and we will mobilise all resources to support the country’s response”.

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