Rotary, GPEI, NPHCDA, others celebrate ‘one year without polio’ in Nigeria

Polio-ChildrenSTAKEHOLDERS in the fight to eradicate polio are today celebrating exactly one year without polio in Nigeria.

The stakeholders led by Rotary International, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) felicitate with Nigeria today as the nation marks one year when the last polio virus infection was recorded in the country.

Rotary International took up the challenge in 1985 to eradicate polio in the world when over 350,000 cases of polio were in more than 125 countries.

Rotary International in a press statement yesterday said: “With the support of WHO, UNICEF, CDC as well as Melinda Gates Foundation, polio was reduced to three countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria that is celebrating one year of the discovery of the infection in the country today.

“Of recent, polio touch was brought to Nigeria, signifying gradual end of polio in the world which was taken to many Rotary Clubs in District 9110 in Nigeria and donations were made towards the total eradication of the infection in Nigeria and the rest of the world.”

The Chairman, Nigeria National PolioPlus Committee, Dr. Tunji Funsho, however warned that it is not yet over until Nigeria remains polio free for another two years when the WHO will then certify the nation absolutely free of the virus.

Also, the GPEI in the latest edition of its Weekly Polio Update published yesterday noted: “No new wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) cases were reported in the past week. No cases have been reported in 2015. Nigeria’s total WPV1 case count for 2014 remains six. The most recent case had onset of paralysis on 24 July 2014 in Sumaila Local Government Area (LGA), southern Kano State.

“No new cases of type 2 circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV2) cases were reported in the past week. The most recent case had onset of paralysis in Kwali Local Government Area (LGA), Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, with onset of paralysis on May 16; this is the only cVDPV2 case reported in Nigeria in 2015.

“ July 24, 2015 will mark 12 months since the last reported case due to wild poliovirus in Nigeria had onset of paralysis (the full 12-month data is pending final laboratory classification from all environmental samples and acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) cases, collected up until July 24, 2015. Results are expected by September).

“This progress is thanks to the hard work of the Nigerian government, partners, religious and community leaders, and health workers.

“While Nigeria is closer than ever to ending polio, the job is not yet finished. At least two more years must pass without a case of wild poliovirus for Nigeria to be certified polio-free along with the rest of the WHO’s African region. To achieve this goal, Nigeria and all countries in the African region must maintain high-quality surveillance for poliovirus and vaccination campaigns, particularly in hard-to-reach and insecure areas, and improve routine immunisation.

“At the same time, efforts are ongoing to rapidly stop a cVDPV2 outbreak affecting the country, with aggressive outbreak response using trivalent OPV being implemented in the affected and high-risk areas.”

Indeed, today is exactly one year since the last case of poliomyelitis was detected in Nigeria. Once that’s officially confirmed, the country will get off the list of areas where the wild polio virus is endemic—and with it, so will the entire African region.

That will leave only Pakistan and Afghanistan on the endemic list. There, according to the WHO estimates, polio is on its way to being cornered; no new cases are expected in the first half of 2016.

It takes three years after the last case for a country to be declared fully polio-free (as opposed to just non-endemic), but at the current rate, we are looking at a polio-free world by 2020—46 years after the WHO first promoted a global immunisation programme. That would mean the end of a serious viral infection, mainly affecting infants up to two years old, which in 0.5 per cent of cases results in muscle weakness and paralysis. And it would be only the third time humankind had successfully eradicated a contagious disease (after smallpox and rinderpest)—a huge achievement.

However, it’s too early to start celebrating.

Currently, according to the GPEI, 97 per cent Nigerian children have had the full three-dose vaccination against polio. That’s a high enough percentage to keep the virus at bay.

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