By Mwayi Nsaliwa
Malawi has recorded a case of polio for the first time since 1992.
Minister of Health Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda has announced the case in a statement.
She said laboratory results show that it is an imported virus as there is no evidence of community circulation of the virus.
Chiponda did not mention the area where the case has been reported but said the polio outbreak has been declared a Public Health Emergency by the Malawi Government.
“There will be Emergence Operations Committee (EOC) meetings and a
risk assessment of the situation will be done with support from our partners such as
the WHO. We will also work very closely with our neighbouring Countries as diseases know no borders,” she said.
The Minister assured the nation that the situation is under control and she encouraged the general public to continue observing good personal hygiene practice as the virus is spread through ingestion of contaminated food or water.
Poliovirus causes irreversible paralysis disease mainly in children zero to fifteen years of age. It also has a potential to infect immunocompromised adults. Normally a child would present to a health facility with acute onset of limb weakness which progresses to paralysis. If it is a leg or an arm, it may become relatively smaller(wasted) than the normal body mass and loses function because it is weaker than the rest of the body.
The Ministry of Health with support from partners has put in place strategies for elimination of Polio in the Country. These strategies are in line with the strategies recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) through the Global Polio End Game Strategy.
Vaccines are the most effective and available prevention strategy for this disease in addition to improved water and sanitation practices.
The Malawi Government through the Ministry of Health established the National Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) in 1979 to deal with vaccine preventable diseases including Polio, Measles and Neonatal Tetanus. These diseases are undergoing eradication and elimination. The Ministry has therefore intensified surveillance for these diseases in line with the WHO recommendations.
Like many other countries in the world, Malawi provides polio vaccine that targets Polio virus type 1 and type 3 following the eradication of Polio virus type 2 many years back. Malawi is also
vaccinating our children with Inactivated Polio Virus vaccine with sustained good coverage to date since introduction in 2018.
The last polio case in Malawi was reported in 1992 and Malawi obtained a Polio free status in 2005 while the WHO African region received its Polio free status certificate in the year 2020.