By Metohuey Michael Adoglo
The health authorities in Malawi have declared an outbreak of wild poliovirus type 1 after a case was detected in a young child in the capital Lilongwe.
This is the first case of wild poliovirus in Africa in more than five years.
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Recall that Africa was declared free of indigenous wild polio in August 2020 after eliminating all forms of wild polio from the region.
A press statement from the World Health Organization states that laboratory analysis shows that the strain detected in Malawi is linked to the one that has been circulating in Sindh Province in Pakistan.
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Polio remains endemic in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As an imported case from Pakistan, this detection does not affect the African region’s wild poliovirus-free certification status.
WHO said it is supporting the Malawi health authorities to carry out a risk assessment and outbreak response, including supplemental immunization. Surveillance of the disease is also being ramped up in neighboring countries.
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Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis within hours. The virus is transmitted from person to person mainly through the faecal-oral route or, less frequently, through contaminated water or food, and multiplies in the intestine. While there is no cure for polio, the disease can be prevented through the administration of a simple and effective vaccine.