Fresh outbreak of polio emerges in northern Nigeria – UN health agency
An outbreak of polio has hit northern Nigeria again and started spreading into neighbouring countries, the United Nations health agency says, warning of a potential international outbreak on the scale of the one that struck 20 countries between 2003 and 2006.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported on Wednesday that there has been a nine-fold increase in the number of new cases caused by wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) so far this year in Nigeria compared with the same period last year. The West African country now accounts for 86 per cent of all the world’s cases with that strain of polio.
Cases of WPV1 linked to the northern Nigeria outbreak have recently been identified in Benin and western Niger as well, a similar pattern to the 2003-06 outbreak that resulted in 1,475 cases in 20 countries, including some as far away as Indonesia and Yemen.
WHO said the new outbreak has occurred because as many as one in five children have not been immunized against polio in key high-risk areas in northern Nigeria. Authorities are planning two large-scale vaccination campaigns next month and in August, and similar campaigns are taking place in Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.
The UN agency said disease surveillance is also being stepped up across the region to try to prevent the outbreak from widening.
Fears are high because of the intensity of the outbreak, the upcoming rainy season – a period associated with increased transmission of the disease – and the anticipated large-scale population movements for the Islamic Hajj to Mecca later this year.