Polio: Prevention is better than no cure


FOR polio cases to reach double digit within three months, is enough to send the message for an urgent need for redoubled efforts on the part of all those involved in the vaccination campaigns.
Confirmed cases now stand at 10 with the latest one in the National Capital District, three in Morobe, two in Eastern Highlands, two in Enga, two in Madang.
Polio is a potentially deadly disease which can spread through communities, causing paralysis, with children most at risk.
The first case of polio after 18 years was detected in a six-year-old boy from Morobe province in June.
Prior to that PNG had not had a case of wild poliovirus since 1996, and the country was certified as polio-free in 2000 along with the rest of the WHO Western Pacific Region, until last month.
The virus is transmitted person-to-person, mainly through the faecal-oral route or, less frequently, by a common vehicle (for example, contaminated water or food) and multiplies in the intestine.
Initial symptoms are fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness of the neck and pain in the limbs. One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis (usually in the legs).
Since the detection of poliovirus in April, WHO has been working with the government on the investigation, laboratory confirmation, enhanced surveillance and response activities.
Health secretary Pascoe Kase says that every new case of polio isn’t just a statistic but represents a child that will be permanently paralysed. This should not be taken lightly. Everyone should be concerned and make it their
business to have children immunised and adults to get a polio booster.
Rather than restricting the polio vaccination campaign to vaccinating children under five years old, it should be open to children up to 15-years.
The latest victim is a five-year-old, which means children older should also be vaccinated because of the movement of people, water, sanitation and hygiene which are some of the serious challenges.
If the confirmation of polio in an urban area is very worrisome to WHO, then it should be a worry also for the Government.
WHO and other partners have been working together to support the Government to continue to actively search for all possible polio cases, rapidly scale up the response in Port Moresby with emergency vaccination and embark on a nationwide vaccination programme in the succeeding rounds of the campaign.
Community and church leaders should support the health promotion and vaccination teams to gain access and effectively deliver the essential health service.
A Public Health Emergency was declared on June 26 after confirmation that poliovirus is circulating in the country.
In response to the polio outbreak in the country, an outbreak response plan has been developed and includes four sub-national and national vaccination rounds as well as enhanced surveillance activities.
The task today undertaken by the government and its partners to control minimise, control and contain can be seen as very complex medical campaign of all time – to eradicate polio, the nerve-destroying virus that has caused death and disability on a terrifying scale.
Remember, there is no cure for polio once contracted; it can be prevented only by a series of vaccinations during childhood.

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