Polio Infections in Nigeria - Polio Eradication at Risk?

WHO reports two new infections with wild polio virus from Nigeria
The polio pathogens have been eradicated in most countries in the world for years and in the meantime it looked as if the polio viruses could soon be completely eliminated. However, the dangerous viruses in some reservoirs have survived to this day. The World Health Organization (WHO) is currently reporting two cases from Nigeria in which children were infected with a wild polio virus strain. A major setback in the fight against polio in Nigeria.

New polio infections have been identified in Nigeria for the first time since July 2014. The government has reported two cases of polio to the WHO. Although the goal of global pathogen eradication is within reach, this is always endangered by infections with wild polio viruses. Now, according to the WHO, a quick response is required to avoid further infections in Nigeria and neighboring countries.

Nigeria is one of the last reservoirs of wild polio viruses
In 2012, Nigeria was still one of the main areas of polio. More than half of all polio cases worldwide have been registered here, according to the WHO statement. Since then, however, the country has made considerable progress and no new infections have occurred since 2014. "This advance was the result of a concerted effort by all levels - government, civil society, religious leaders and tens of thousands of committed health workers," reports WHO. Now, however, two children in the northeast of the country have become infected and have been admitted to clinics with symptoms of paralysis.

Improved vaccination campaigns and surveillance
"We are deeply saddened by the news that two Nigerian children have been paralyzed by polio," emphasizes Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. Because the symptoms of paralysis show up in very few affected people, which suggests that significantly more children in the region are probably infected. The top priority now is the immunization of all children. In view of the difficult situation in the northeast of the country, the vaccination campaigns have so far not been able to reach all children. The implementation of large-scale vaccination campaigns and the expansion of the surveillance systems should therefore be promoted.

The two new infections show the need to prioritize immunization of children even in areas that are difficult to reach, such as the Lake Chad region, which spans several countries and is often affected by conflicts and large population movements, the WHO experts emphasize.

Can polio be eradicated quickly in Nigeria?
Despite the new cases, Dr. Michel Zaffran, WHO Director in charge of the fight against polio, confident of promptly "once and for all" freeing the country of polio with a quick reaction and close cooperation with the Nigerian government. The current cases are an important warning that the world must not be complacent if polio eradication is to succeed.

Polio pathogens almost eliminated worldwide
The goal of polio eradication has almost been achieved worldwide. Only 21 wild polio cases have been reported in 2016, compared to 34 cases in the same period last year, according to the WHO statement. New polio infections only occurred in two other countries: Pakistan and Afghanistan. Today only one of the three types of wild polio viruses circulates in the environment and polio is history in most parts of the world. However, experts believe that the risk of renewed spread should not be underestimated. (fp)

Author and source information

Video: WHO: Responding to a Polio Outbreak (December 2021).