The Malawi Government through the Ministry of Health has put in place additional measures in order to contain Polio after a case was registered in Lilongwe last week.
This was disclosed yesterday during a press briefing which Ministry of Health and other partners organised to update the Nation on what the country is doing to contain the disease.
Speaking to Journalists, Deputy Minister of Health Hon. Enock Phale said there are strategies lined up to eliminate the Polio virus and contain the disease which include vaccination, supplementary immunization and awareness campaigns.
He said the first step was declaration of Polio as a Public Health Emergency and following the declaration, the WHO has since started supporting the country to carry out a risk assessment and outbreak response which will including supplemental polio immunization in the coming few months.
“Surveillance of the disease is also being intensified in neighbouring countries. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) Rapid Response Team which is based at the WHO Regional Office in Africa has already deployed a team to Malawi to support coordination, surveillance, data management, communications, and operations.
“Other Partner organizations such as UNICEF, USA CDC and Africa CDC have also started sending teams to support emergency operations and innovative vaccination campaign solutions.
“An Emergency Operation centre has been set up at the Community Health Sciences Unit where experts are working every day with daily coordination meetings. The risk assessment of the situation has been done. Polio communication plan and budget is being finalized. A budget for all activities including the polio Supplement Immunization is also almost ready and we plan to start Polio immunization in the coming weeks,” explained Phale.
He assured the nation that Government with support from other partners will do everything possible to control the situation.
In her remarks, World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Representative Dr. Janet Kayita, said they are working with the Ministry of Health to contain the disease and they are ready to support the ministry in all measures that have lined up that include immunization.
She said WHO will intensify surveillance and strengthen the immunization system.
“It’s really important that all children get all of the recommended childhood vaccine and this include the polio vaccine, but the specific outbreak response is a national immunization campaign targeting all children aged under 5 with the policy vaccines. But also what is really key is that every child under five wherever they are, they are reached and this include the districts affected by cyclone ANA,” said Kayita.
Poliovirus causes irreversible paralysis disease mainly in children zero to fifteen years of age. 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. It is a disabling and life threatening disease.
Polio is an infectious disease and can be passed from one person to another through ingestion of food or water which is contaminated with polio virus. There are three types (strains) of wild polio virus and these are polio virus 1, polio virus 2 and polio virus 3. The high risk group are those that are unvaccinated or those that have received fewer doses of polio vaccines.