WHO raises alarm over polio outbreak in Kenya

Kenya is among 145 nations experiencing outbreaks and emergencies owing to humanitarian crises following the emergence of polio in Garissa County last month. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that the outbreak of Poliomyelitis (cVDPV2), which was reported from the Hagadera refugee camp in Garissa County is a cause for concern since no confirmed case has been reported in the country since 2013.

The infections were confirmed in two children who were already paralysed while the third one was asymptomatic.
Cases of cVDPV2 are a rare result of widespread vaccination using oral polio vaccine (OPV), which contains a live but weakened strain of poliovirus. When a child is immunized with OPV, the weakened vaccine-virus replicates in the intestine for a limited time, leading to the development of antibodies. In areas of inadequate sanitation, vaccine-virus excreted by these children can spread in the community.

Polio is highly infectious and can spread rapidly through contact with infected fecal material, such as in contaminated food and water. Infections are generally mild, but one in 200 cases leads to irreversible paralysis. Among those victims, five to 10 percent die when respiratory muscles become affected. The risk of paralysis increases with age. There is no specific treatment for polio.

Read also: Over 3 million children to get polio vaccine shots

Large scale immunization

In response to the outbreak, the Ministry of Health has begun preparations for the implementation of emergency outbreak response, including rapid implementation of large-scale supplementary immunization campaign. Surveillance measures are being strengthened, and subnational immunity levels are being analyzed to identify under-immunized populations and areas.

Over the past month, five new emergency events have been reported, including Dengue fever in Ivory Coast, Poliomyelitis (cVDPV2) in Kenya and suspected Anthrax in Ghana. WHO and partners says they are supporting governments to respond to 125 disease outbreaks.

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