Nigeria Suffers Setback as Authorities Confirm Two Polio Cases

As the World Health Organization (WHO) was getting ready to declare Nigeria a polio virus free nation after about two years without a case being reported in any part of the country, two new cases were confirmed by the authorities in Borno State, northeast Nigeria, on August 12, 2016.

On September 25, 2015 WHO announced that polio is no longer endemic in Nigeria. It was the first time that Nigeria had interrupted transmission of wild polio virus, bringing the country and the African region closer than ever to being certified polio free as reported on it’s website.

With the confirmation of the two new cases Nigeria’s hope of being certified polio free by July 2017 has suffered a serious setback.

A boy being immunized...photo USAtoday.com
A boy being immunized. Photo/USAtoday.com

The two children affected by the polio virus were in Jejere and Gwoza Local Government Areas of Borno State. The new cases were detected during a surveillance of the northeast region by health officials, Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole said.

Before this reemergence, Nigeria had not reported a polio case since July 24, 2014 (WHO), as reported by Nigerian newspaper Premium Times. The Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, made note in a statement released to the press that the only way to avert further spread was to take on emergency measures, involving the dispatch of a response team to the northeast region. He disclosed that about five million children in four states across the northeast would receive immunization.

“Our overriding priority right now is to rapidly boost immunity in the affected areas to ensure that no more children are affected by this terrible disease,” Adewole said. “Local health officials with the support of partners including WHO and UNICEF are conducting detailed risk analysis to clearly ascertain the extent of circulation of the virus, and to assess overall levels of population immunity in order to guide the response”.

“As an immediate response, about one million children are to be immunized in four local government areas in Borno State. Children in adjoining states of Yobe, Adamawa and Gombe will also be immunized bringing the number to about five million in the four states,” Adewole’s statement reads. According to Global Polio Eradication Initiative polio remains endemic in two countries – Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Until polio virus transmission is interrupted in these countries, all countries remain at risk of importation of polio, especially vulnerable countries with weak public health and immunization services, and travel or trade links to endemic countries.