Nigeria takes steps to curtail polio spread

Gloria Essien, Abuja.

The Nigerian government says it has put urgent measures in place to curtain the spread of the Wild Polio Virus in the country.

The minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole stated this at a Press briefing on the recent outbreak of polio in Nigeria.

He said that part of the emergency preparedness would be the immediate immunisation of all eligible children in the affected states and neighbouring countries.

“Following the confirmation of the outbreak of Wild Polio-Virus (WPV) in Borno State, to ensure the containment of all the cases and prevent further spread of Wild Polio-Virus (WPV) to other states,  I have approved the revision of the robust Wild Polio Virus (WPV) outbreak response plan developed by the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency and its partners. The response plan includes five (5) rounds of polio campaigns, two (2) of which are focused on eighteen (18) Northern States and two (2) to be conducted nationwide, one to be conducted in 5 states. These campaigns will be synchronized with the affected regions and provinces in Chad, Niger, Cameroun and Central African Republic,” he explained.

The Minister noted that there remains a high risk of further spread of the virus due to population movements and Nigeria needs to be proactive in curbing the spread.

He noted that “for Nigeria, while the timely response in the affected local government areas and environs is critical, the country needs to be proactive to ensure all eligible children are vaccinated within the shortest time feasible so as to limit the spread of the virus beyond the affected areas and borders of the country. There remains a high risk of further spread of the virus due to population movement within and around the State. This spread is not limited to surrounding States but could also affect neighbouring countries around the Lake Chad region”.

The health minister also said that for the sub-national campaigns, 31,540,054 children are targeted to be vaccinated each round with oral polio vaccines across States in the North-East, North-West and North-Central zones of the country. For the nationwide response, 56,363,618 children will be vaccinated between in October and November 2016.

He also said that report from the detailed investigation carried out by the ministry’s team revealed that both cases came from security compromised areas of Borno State, north eastern Nigeria, which have had limited access to any form of health services including immunisation since 2011.

“The case reported in Jere LGA was from a child who had arrived at an Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp in Maiduguri (Muna camp in Jere LGA), after trekking for two days following the provision of an escape corridor by the military authorities. The second case was detected in Gwoza LGA. Both LGAs have had their health facilities destroyed by insurgents and accessibility was a barrier to service provision. Both cases have been linked to the polio cases detected in Bama in 2011,” the Minister said.

Prof. Adewole said that “so far we have, commenced vaccination of children in accessible areas of Gwoza, Jere, Maiduguri Municipal Council (MMC), Bama, Mafa (1 ward) LGAs concurrently with active case search. Relatively , we are working closely with the Ministry of Defence to provide security for the Health Workers during the house to house immunisation and also to provide timely information on security and accessibility situations in Borno State and its environs”.

He also announced that, plans are underway to reinforce and intensify immunisation of intending pilgrims to Saudi Arabia and that adequate supplies of vaccines have been provided at different International Port Health locations and airports.

He said “this is consistent with the international Health Regulations (IHR)”.

The Health Minister however noted that mindful of the malnutrition amongst recently liberated populations, the outbreak response will be an integrated one.

He therefore gave the assurance that the Nutrition Department in the Federal Ministry of Health, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency as well as Development Partners in the Nutrition programme will work closely with the Response Team in Borno State to provide nutritious meals alongside Oral Polio Vaccines to the targeted children.

“Consequently, I have directed that food materials at Community Management Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) sites be redirected to support immunisation services.
Children who have symptoms of malnutrition, seen at health camps will be referred to CMAM sites for food packages after receiving polio vaccination”.

The minister added that the health of Nigerians remains the top priority of the present administration.