Print version ISSN 0042-9686
Bull World Health Organ vol.82 n.9 Genebra Sep. 2004
Two countries re-infected with polio, as Nigerian state resumes vaccinations
Polio has spread from Nigeria to two more African countries, Guinea and Mali, three weeks after the Nigerian state of Kano which suspended immunization in August last year resumed polio vaccinations, WHO said.
WHO confirmed on 24 August that there were two new cases of children paralysed by polio in Mali and one in Guinea. Both countries had been polio-free for four years. WHO also confirmed three more cases of polio in Sudan's Dafur region, which is facing a severe humanitarian crisis, in addition to a case reported in June.
Nigeria's northern state of Kano became the last of several to resume vaccinations on 31 July, marking an important step towards global efforts to halt transmission of the virus by the end of 2004, WHO said.
But WHO renewed a recent warning, following the news of the six latest polio cases, that Africa could be on the brink of the largest polio epidemic in recent history if efforts are not stepped up to bring the spread of the disease under control.
These six latest cases bring the tally of African countries that have been re-infected with polio to 12 and the number of children paralysed to 94 not including Niger and Nigeria since Kano and several other northern Nigerian states suspended a polio immunization campaign in August last year.
Since leaders in some of Nigeria's northern Moslem states suspended immunization over unfounded concerns about the oral vaccine's safety, the number of cases in Nigeria has also shot up, with 476 by 24 August, compared with 107 a year before.
Over the last 12 months, the virus has spread to Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Togo, which had also been polio-free for several years.
Twenty-two countries in western central Africa are preparing to carry out synchronized immunization campaigns in October and November targeting 74 million children under five years old.
Since the global eradication campaign was launched in 1988, the polio virus has been reduced from 125 to six countries where the virus is endemic, or present and circulating: Afghanistan, Egypt, India, Niger, Nigeria and Pakistan.
On 30 June, WHO advised international travellers to Nigeria that they should be up to date with their polio vaccinations.
WHO guidelines recommend a booster dose four to six years after primary series of vaccinations and that anyone intending to visit Nigeria should have completed a full course of polio vaccination as recommended by their national governments.
The eradication campaign is being led by WHO in cooperation with United Nations children's fund UNICEF, Rotary International and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, the United States.