Polio on the increase in Nigeria –WHO

Polio on the increase in Nigeria –WHO

Postby Richard Akindele » Mon May 22, 2006 9:01 am

The World Health Organisation has identified Nigeria as the only country in the world that has an increase in reported cases of polio.

Speaking to newsmen ahead of the WHO’s annual assembly billed to take off in Geneva, Switzerland on Monday, the head of WHO polio eradication unit, David Heymann, said he was worried by a surge in polio cases in Nigeria. He added that polio had shot up to 250 since the beginning of the year compared to just 78 in the same period last year.

While describing Nigeria as the world’s last hotspot for the crippling virus, whose infection rate has more than tripled this year, Heymann said, “Far too few children are being vaccinated for polio in the country.�

To further compound the global health agency’s concerns about Nigeria, Heymann said, “In about five of the northern Nigerian states that account for nearly 70 per cent of the global polio cases, the WHO estimates that 40 per cent of children have not received any oral polio vaccine.�

For Nigeria to catch up with the rest of the world, Heymann said, “85-90 per cent of children will need to receive multiple doses of the two-drop liquid medicine to successfully halt the transmission.�

The situation, as far as Heymann is concerned, is particularly worrying because “left uncontrolled, Nigerian polio could spread to West and Central Africa, the Middle East and even Asia, carried by Nigerian traders and pilgrims.�

Heymann told newsmen that he was only hoping that a new Nigerian plan to administer the polio vaccine at a fixed site while also offering other medical treatments, followed by door-to-door checks for missed children, could help to increase access to the medicine.

Equally concerned about the rising incidence of polio in Nigeria, WHO Director-General, Lee Jong-Wook, last month took the rare step of writing to all of the UN health agency’s 192 member states to warn about the risks from polio in Nigeria.

The WHO launched a campaign in 1988 to wipe out polio, which can paralyse a child for life within hours, but failed to reach its target of halting its spread by the end of last year. Nigeria is one of four countries that have not managed to stamp out the virus, alongside Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. The situation was further exacerbated in 2003 when local leaders in the northern states suspended vaccinations for nearly a year alleging they caused sterility and HIV/AIDS.

-Punch-
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