Two young children have been paralyzed with polio in Nigeria – country that was almost polio free.
Just when Nigeria celebrated its first full year without the disease in 2015, and was looking to be polio free by 2017, two children were diagnosed with the disease.
Health officials are now planning how to alleviate the effects of what Michel Zaffran, director of polio eradication for the World Health Organization, said in a conference call was a “reminder to all of us to reinforce the fact that we cannot be complacent”. Vaccination for children in affected areas will begin next week.
The return of polio is quite troubling, but this particular in Nigeria is even more troubling and disturbing.
One of the reasons why it’s such bad news is that Nigeria was just half a year away from being polio free along with the rest of the African continent. In order to be certified as polio free by World Health Organization, a country cannot register a case of polio for a period of three years. These two new diagnoses have set the clock back three years.
The two Nigerian cases are located in the volatile state of Borno. This area is a stronghold of Boko Haram, which has made immunization difficult and even impossible. Boko Haram group has publicly denounced the vaccination campaigns as a Western plot, they killed immunizers and even forbid health official to enter this area.
Isaac Adewole, Nigeria’s health minister, said that the cases were only detected because of a military offensive against the militant Islamist group.
“The discovery and confirmation of the outbreak was as a result of strengthened surveillance due to improved accessibility which has been made possible by the recent military action in liberating more communities in the North-Eastern part of the country,” according to the statement.
World Health Organization also vowed to do all it can to keep the virus located in the area of Borno, so that the rest of the country stays polio free.
Children infected with polio
A few years ago Nigeria accounted for more than half of all the polio cases reported worldwide. Just when it seemed that the country had made great progress and completely eliminated polio, the disease appeared again this week.
To become protected from polio virus four vaccinations are needed. In some affected areas it is difficult to keep a written record of how many times children have been vaccinated.
Polio virus is an endemic virus, which means that it has not been brought form somewhere else. There are three types of this virus. Type one can be found in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and also now in Nigeria. Polio type two was last seen in India in 1999, while type three has not been seen since 2011.
Although the news are disappointing and discouraging, no one involved in this situation is losing hope that they will successfully vaccinate all the children in Nigeria, and completely eliminate polio in next few years.