120 environmental polio outbreaks reported in Nigeria – UNICEF

The Representative of the United Nation’s Children Fund (UNICEF) in Nigeria, Dr Peter Hawkins, Monday said 120 environmental or vaccine-derived polio has been reported in Nigeria.

There are two kinds of polio cases; Wild cases of polio are caused by poliovirus that is circulating naturally in the environment while environmental or vaccine-derived polioviruses are extremely rare and exist under specific circumstances.

Experts said oral polio vaccine contains live virus that is weakened so that it will prompt the body’s immune response without causing paralysis.

Speaking at the third Quarter Northern Traditional Leaders Committee on Primary Health Cares (PHC) review meeting in Abuja Monday, Hawkins stated that when vaccine is ingested, and the weakened virus replicates in the child’s gut, it is then excreted.

He said: “In areas with poor sanitation, this excreted vaccine virus can spread to other children. This can actually be good because it then immunises them. When the strain no longer finds susceptible children, it dies out.

“The problem occurs in areas of low vaccination. There, such vaccine-derived strains of the virus can continue to circulate as long as they continue to find unvaccinated or otherwise susceptible children.

“While they continue to circulate, they mutate. Eventually, if they are allowed to circulate long enough, at least 12 months, they can mutate into strains that are strong enough to cause paralysis,” he said.

The Executive Director of National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr Faisal Shuaib, however said there were 121 reported cases of the environmental polio in the country.

In an interview with reporters along with the Emir of Argungu, Alhaji Samala Muhammadu Mera, Dr Shuaib stated that with different disease outbreak that the country is currently contending with, it was imperative that the approach becomes more integrated.

“This is because they are all interwoven. Amidst COVID-19, we have Cholera, CVDPV2 which is as a result of suboptimal routine immunisation in some parts of the country.

“As we conduct outbreak response campaigns, we need to find a way to integrate our responses for efficient utilisation of available resources and to enhance confidence in our people,” he stated.

The NPHCDA boss added that the integration would also enhance the agency’s determination to continue to safeguard the wild polio virus free status.

“It entails checking the blood pressure and assessing the diabetes risk status of clients 40 years and above and screening children 0 to 12 months for malnutrition and routine immunisation status,” he said.

The Emir of Argungu, Alhaji Samala Muhammadu Mera, assured that the committee is working to ensure that all eligible Nigerians take the COVID-19 vaccines as they become available.

Mera stated further that the committee is working with traditional and religious leaders and taking steps to educate citizens in their community on the safety of the vaccines and the danger of not taking it.

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