Barely a year after the World Health Organisatio (WHO) delisted Nigeria from polio-endemic nations, Nigerians were taken aback on Thursday, to hear that there was an outbreak of wild polio virus in Borno State.
Confirming the epidemic , the Minister of Health Prof. Isaac Adewole in a statement said the outbreak had affected two children from Gwoza and Jere Local Government Areas of the state.
According to a Vanguard report, the minister said the fresh cases were detected during a surveillance of north-eastern states by health officials from the ministry.
Adewole, who charged parents in the region to stay vigilant, said a national emergency response team had been sent to Borno State for immediate polio vaccination to prevent the spread of the virus locally and internationally.
“Local health officials with the support of partners including WHO and UNICEF are conducting detailed risk analysis to clearly ascertain the extent of circulation of the virus, and to assess overall levels of population immunity in order to guide the response.
“As an immediate response, about one million children are to be immunised in four local government areas in Borno State. Children in adjoining states of Yobe, Adamawa and Gombe will also be immunised bringing the number to about five million in the four states,” the minister stated.
WHO in a statement in Geneva on Thursday also confirmed the two new cases in Nigeria.
Its Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, who said the organisation was saddened by the development, stated that it was collaborating with the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and the Federal Government to prevent more children from being paralysed.
Moeti stated, “We are deeply saddened by the news that two Nigerian children have been paralysed by polio. The government has made significant strides to stop this paralysing disease in recent years. The overriding priority now is to rapidly immunise all children around the affected area and ensure that no other children succumb to this terrible disease.”
The Director of Polio Eradication at WHO Headquarters, Dr. Michel Zaffran, revealed that genetic sequencing of the viruses were linked to a wild polio virus strain that was detected in Borno in 2011.
Zaffran stated that a resurgence of the polio virus was not a surprise particularly in areas where it was difficult to reach children with the vaccine.
The global health agency warned neighbouring countries such as Chad to stay vigilant.
He said, “We are confident that with a swift response and strong collaboration with the Nigerian Government, we can soon rid the country of polio once and for all. This is an important reminder that the world cannot afford to be complacent as we are on the brink of polio eradication — we will only be done when the entire world has been certified polio-free.”
Our correspondent also learnt that the Executive Secretary the United Nations Populations Fund, Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin, made an emergency visit to the country on Thursday morning.
He was said to have met with President Muhammadu Buhari and Adewole, in Abuja to devise a 48-hour strategy to quickly address the spread of the wild polio virus in Borno State.