AFRICA/CONGO - Polio cases continue after 15 years without vaccination campaigns

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Brazzaville (Agenzia Fides) - At least 94 people have died, with 201 cases of acute flaccid paralysis reported in the Republic of Congo (ROC), since 5 November (see Fides 6/11/2010). Four cases have been confirmed as wild poliovirus type 1, says the UN World Health Organization (WHO). Most affected are people aged between 15 and 72. A major cause is the fact that for the last 15 years, immunization campaigns have not been carried out due to the country's political instability. Improving water and sanitation practices can help but in an emergency situation like this, one of the fastest and most effective ways of stopping the outbreak is through cross-border mass immunization because of population movements. At least 1.1 million people will be vaccinated in the epidemic's epicentre in ROC's Pointe-Noire region. Another 600,000 people will be simultaneously vaccinated in neighbouring Kebinga Province of Angola, where 25 cases were recorded in 2010. Congo recorded its last case of indigenous polio in 2000 and it is suspected that the virus reached Pointe-Noire through Kebinga. A recent polio immunization campaign targeted some 72 million children in 15 countries across West and Central Africa, the third in 2010. Polio is an acute viral disease mainly affecting children under five that may attack the central nervous system and is characterized by symptoms ranging from a mild non-paralytic infection to total paralysis in hours. (AP) (Agenzia Fides 10/11/2010)