MALAWI – The Malawian Health ministry has announced its intentions to roll out a polio vaccination campaign and administer supplementary vaccinations to children under the age of five after a young child in Lilongwe developed the disease.

The last polio case in Malawi was reported in 1992 making the just reported case in Lilongwe District the first in 30 years.

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus that invades the nervous system causing total paralysis within hours.

The virus is transmitted from person-to-person mainly through the fecal-oral route or through contaminated water or food where the virus multiplies in the intestine.

The debilitating disease invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis within hours.

With support from various polio eradication partners, the ministry will conduct awareness campaigns among other ways of informing the nation on what to do to combat the spread of the disease.

Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera declared the Poliovirus outbreak a National Public Health Emergency and immediately, the World Health Organization (WHO) started supporting the country to carry out a risk assessment and outbreak response.

During a press conference, WHO representative for Malawi Janet Kayita said there was need to intensify social mobilization on the importance of getting children immunized and promoting hygiene to curb the spread of the disease.

“We need to intensify efforts on immunization and make sure that every child gets vaccinated to be protected from Polio,” she emphasized.

She added that there was a dire need to reach out to children in areas where Tropical Storm Ana had affected many households when the vaccination rolls out to ensure no child is left behind.

Centres for Disease Control Country Director Kelsey Mirkovic commended the rapid declaration of a National Public Health Emergency and the strong leadership by the ministry to immediately launch activities to combat the spread.

In recent developments, the strain found in the child in Lilongwe has been linked to one circulating in Pakistan where the virus remains endemic.

As long as wild polio exists anywhere in the world all countries remain at risk of importation of the virus and we’re taking urgent measures to forestall the potential spread of Wild Polio detected in Malawi,” reported WHO.

WHO pledged to give its assistance to the health authorities in Malawi by carrying out a risk assessment and outbreak response as well as deploying the Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s (GPEI) rapid response team.

The health organization further said that the new case did not affect Africa’s status of being free of wild polio declared in August 2020.

Malawi obtained a polio-free status in 2005 while the WHO African Region received its polio-free status certificate in 2020.

Additionally , the last case of wild polio virus in Africa was identified in northern Nigeria in 2016 and globally there were only five cases in 2021.

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