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End Polio Disease Now

Polio immnization
Posted: Aug 23, 2016 at 2:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)


The recent discovery of 2 new cases of the poliomyelitis (polio) type 1 virus in Borno State calls for renewed efforts by the government and stakeholders in the health sector to end the disease in Nigeria. The country had its last confirmed polio case 2 years previous to the new cases and was on the verge of being declared a polio-free nation.

With the current development, Nigeria may have to wait for another 3 years of nil record of polio for a certification and placement among the polio-free countries of the world. Thankfully, Nigeria has been recording a decline in the number of polio cases, going from 788 cases in 2008 to 122 in 2012 and none in 2013 before this regrettable incident of the 2 new cases. This Newspaper believes that the rise in the graph is a way of telling the nation that it is not yet time to roll out the drums as a lot still needs to be done to educate the masses. Indeed, we should not assume, even when we are given a clean bill, that we can fall asleep concerning viral or bacterial diseases that are believed to have been eradicated. These organisms have a way of mutating and becoming immune to current methods of treatment, if care is not taken.

The north-eastern part of the country where the new cases were recorded is the hot bed of the fight against Boko Haram. This makes the area easily entrenched by the virus as the insurgency makes it very dangerous to freely go out to give vaccines to children or monitor them. The internally displaced persons’ camps are rife with malnutrition among children in particular. This situation can lead to lowered immunity that can facilitate the spread of the virus. As the UNICEF Polio Eradication Director Reza Hossaini correctly noted, “We cannot deny the connection between conflict and the continued threat of polio. The two new cases mean children across the Lake Chad region are now at particular risk. With our partners, we will not stop until we reach every child with polio vaccination.”

Perhaps, Nigeria and its neighbours who are adjacent to Borno State should evolve new strategies that will help protect health workers and volunteers who go out for the purpose of vaccinating the children.  This is even more so because research has shown that Nigeria has an endemic strain of the virus and this can be freely exported to these other countries given the high level of migration and interaction especially between Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Central African Republic.

It is pertinent that this disease be eradicated because it is an acute and highly infectious disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. In the wake of the attack, it destroys the nerve cells that enervate the skeletal muscles. Since these cells cannot regenerate, the affected muscles end up losing their function. The virus is transmitted through oral contact with secretions or faecal matter from an infected person. Children under 5 years old are the most susceptible to attack by this virus than any other group. The disease has no cure so prevention is principally by vaccination.

Since the incidents of polio attack are also linked to unhygienic environments, more should be done by Government in the area of monitoring and ensuring environmental cleanliness. As water contaminated with human waste can be a source, especially where there is no running water or flush toilets, as is the situation in most internally displaced persons’ camp; people should be taught to treat their drinking water by boiling or be assisted to have access to good drinking water.

The washing of hands can also not be underestimated in the fight against infection and proper handling of food post-cooking should be emphasised even in camps.

We urge the relevant arms of Government and all the donor Agencies to urgently do everything possible to contain this new development so that polio does not spread beyond these 2 new cases. This terrible disease that destroys lives by dashing hopes and limiting aspirations must be kept at bay.