The Health Authorities in Malawi have declared a polio outbreak following the detection of a case of wild poliovirus type 1 in a young child in the capital Lilongwe.
This is the first case of wild poliovirus in Africa in more than five years.
Africa was declared free of indigenous wild polio in August 2020 after eliminating all forms of wild polio from the region.
Laboratory analysis shows that the strain detected in Malawi is linked to one that has been circulating in Sindh Province in Pakistan.
The case was confirmed after tests were carried out on samples from the infected child who was suffering from paralysis, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
As an imported case from Pakistan, this detection does not affect the African region’s wild poliovirus-free certification status.
No one yet knows how or when the strain that infected the Malawi child arrived in the southern African country.
Currently, Afghanistan and Pakistan are the only countries in the world in which wild polio is endemic.
“As long as wild polio exists anywhere in the world all countries remain at risk of importation of the virus,” said Dr.
Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa.
“Following the detection of wild polio in Malawi, we’re taking urgent measures to forestall its potential spread.
Thanks to a high level of polio surveillance in the continent and the capacity to quickly detect the virus, we can swiftly launch a rapid response and protect children from the debilitating impact of this disease.
The UN health agency is supporting Malawi to carry out a risk assessment and outbreak response, including supplemental immunization.
Surveillance of the disease is also being ramped up in neighboring countries.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative Rapid Response Team is deploying a team to Malawi to support coordination, surveillance, data management, communications, and operations.
Partners organizations will also send teams to support emergency operations and innovative vaccination campaign solutions.
“The last case of wild poliovirus in Africa was identified in northern Nigeria in 2016 and globally there were only five cases in 2021.
“Any case of wild poliovirus is a significant event and we will mobilize all resources to support the country’s response,” said Dr.
Modjirom Ndoutabe, Polio Coordinator in the WHO Regional Office for Africa.
Polio is a highly infectious disease that affects the nervous system and can cause total paralysis within hours.
The virus is transmitted from person to person mainly through the faecal-oral route or, less frequently, through contaminated water or food, and multiplies in the intestine.
While there is no cure for polio, the disease can be prevented through the administration of a simple and effective vaccine.
Wild polio is caught from the environment, but there is another type of polio linked to the oral vaccine, which contains a live, weakened virus.
An injectable form of the vaccine is now being used, That treatment contains dead virus strains which do not lead to polio cases.
Africa’s first wild polio case in five years detected in Malawi