Outbreaks of wild poliovirus (wild poliovirus) type 1 have been found again in Malawi, East Africa. This was announced by Malawi’s health authorities after a case was detected in a young child in the capital Lilongwe.
According to the authority, this is the first case of wild poliovirus in Africa in more than five years.
Africa was declared free of native wild polio in August 2020 after eliminating all forms of wild polio from the region. Laboratory analysis showed that the strains detected in Malawi were related to strains already circulating in the Sindh Province of Pakistan.
Polio remains endemic in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As an imported case from Pakistan, this detection does not affect the certification status of wild poliovirus free in the African region.
“As long as wild polio exists everywhere in the world, all countries remain at risk of importing the virus,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, citing a WHO press statement, Friday (18/2/2022).
Following the detection of wild polio in Malawi, it took immediate action to prevent its potential spread.
“Thanks to the continent’s high-level polio surveillance and capacity to detect the virus quickly, we were able to quickly launch a rapid response and protect children from the effects of this disease.”
Outbreak Risk Assessment and Response
WHO supports Malawi’s health authorities to conduct outbreak risk and response assessments, including additional immunizations.
Surveillance of the disease is also being stepped up in neighboring countries. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) Rapid Response Team based at the WHO Regional Office in Africa deployed a team to Malawi to support coordination, surveillance, data management, communications and operations.
Partner organizations will also send teams to support emergency operations and innovative vaccination campaign solutions.
“The last cases of wild poliovirus in Africa were identified in northern Nigeria in 2016 and globally there were only five cases in 2021,” said Dr Modjirom Ndoutabe, Polio Coordinator at WHO’s Regional Office for Africa.
“Every case of wild poliovirus is an important event and we will deploy all resources to support the country’s response,” he added.
Polio is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus. It attacks the nervous system and can cause complete paralysis within hours.
The virus is transmitted from person to person mainly by the faecal-oral route or less often through contaminated water or food and multiplies in the intestines. Although there is no cure for polio, it can be prevented through a simple and effective vaccine.