KENYA-UGANDA: Polio prevention efforts stepped up

Receiving the polio vaccine (file photo) /UNICEF/SENEGAL/SHRYOCK/2010

Polio prevention efforts have been increased in Uganda and neighbouring Kenyan districts after a case was confirmed in Bugiri District, in eastern Uganda.

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Uganda’s Ministry of Health and partners on 20 November launched a three-day, house-to-house polio immunization campaign in 48 districts targeting children younger than five.

In the northern Ugandan district of Pader, community immunization teams trekked to villages housing former internally displaced persons (IDPs).

“Mothers are happy, instead of moving to [the] immunization post, their children are being immunized right in [the] homes,” said Pader district health officer, Janet Oola, adding that 43,071 children were being targeted.

Pader is vulnerable to polio because of its proximity to Southern Sudan, Oola said.

The polio case identified in Bugiri, about 40km from Kenya’s Busia border town, in late October, was the first to be reported in Uganda since May 2009.

An analysis of the virus showed it to be genetically identical to the wild polio type from Southern Sudan, added Willis Akhwale, head of the Department of Disease Prevention and Control in Kenya’s Ministry of Public Health.

Polio immunization coverage in 22 Kenyan districts bordering eastern Uganda was found to be low, prompting control efforts, which will continue until January, added Akhwale.

“As part of the polio prevention campaign, we will also look out for those with AFP [acute flaccid paralysis] signs and subject them to further investigations,” he said.

Kenya’s polio immunization coverage is 70 percent. However, in the region of Turkana, close to the Southern Sudan border, coverage is much lower than the national average.

Kenya last reported polio in 1984 before a case imported from Somalia was registered in 2006. Cases imported from Southern Sudan were reported in 2009.

Vigilance needed

The vaccination campaigns are ongoing amid recent reports of hundreds of cases in Pointe Noire, Republic of Congo.

As of 9 November, at least 324 cases of AFP and 146 deaths had been reported in Pointe Noire, with five cases being confirmed to have been caused by wild poliovirus type 1.

The polio cases were caused by a poliovirus most closely related to that circulating in neighbouring Angola, said WHO, adding that countries across central Africa needed to strengthen AFP surveillance to rapidly detect any poliovirus imports and facilitate a rapid response.

The polio virus is transmitted through contaminated food and water. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck, and pain in the limbs. In a few cases, it leads to permanent paralysis.

Theme (s): Children, Health & Nutrition,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]