Fresh polio outbreak hits Zim

Source: Fresh polio outbreak hits Zim –Newsday Zimbabwe

The country has been on high alert after neighbouring Mozambique and Malawi confirmed polio outbreaks in 2022 and four rounds of vaccination were carried out between October 2022 and October 2023.

GOVERNMENT has confirmed the outbreak of a Type 2 poliovirus variant in the country saying an emergency polio vaccination programme has commenced.

Addressing journalists in Harare yesterday, Health and Child Care deputy minister Sleiman Timios Kwidini said the detection of these viruses in the environment or in humans constitutes a polio outbreak.

“The Health and Child Care ministry wishes to inform the public that it has confirmed through laboratory tests the presence of a Type 2 circulating poliovirus variant in environmental samples that were collected towards the end of 2023 from sewage sites covering Budiriro, Mbare and Mufakose catchments in Harare Metropolitan province,” he said.

“In addition and through intensified poliomyelitis disease surveillance in the country, a similar circulating poliovirus variant has been detected in a 10-year-old child from Sanyati district of Mashonaland West province, who presented to us with acute paralysis and had laboratory tests done for confirmation.”

The country has been on high alert after neighbouring Mozambique and Malawi confirmed polio outbreaks in 2022 and four rounds of vaccination were carried out between October 2022 and October 2023.

“The virus that was detected in these occasions is a rare type of poliovirus that can occur when the weakened live virus in the oral polio vaccine (OPV) mutates over time and becomes able to circulate in the community. Hence it is referred to as circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus -type 2 (CVDPV),” said the deputy minister, while urging a multi-sectoral approach to curb the spread of the disease.

“The ministry would like to reassure the public that they have taken swift action to investigate and contain the outbreak to prevent any further spread that may occur.

“Following the detection, the ministry immediately declared the event to the World Health Organisation as required under international health regulations and instituted emergency response measures.

“These included the activation of a polio incident management system and the appointment of an incident manager for a co-ordinated outbreak response, conducting thorough investigations, intensifying polio surveillance throughout the country and planning for emergency nationwide polio vaccination campaigns to ensure that transmission is stopped rapidly.”

Kwidini announced the commencement of round two of emergency national polio vaccination campaign targeting children below 10 years, scheduled for this and next month.

“The detailed polio risk analysis conducted by the ministry identified the below 10-year-old age group as having a higher risk to these Type 2 polioviruses since vaccines targeting this type were stopped globally in 2015 after global eradication.

“In the planned vaccination campaign, all children below 10 years are being targeted with an initial two rounds of novel oral polio vaccine (nOPV2) to quickly boost their protection from this type of poliovirus,” he said.

The first round is scheduled between February 20 and March 1, while the second round is scheduled between March 19 and 29 across all provinces.

The emergency vaccination campaign, which will be conducted in close collaboration with the Primary and Secondary Education ministry, targets to vaccinate and protect a total of 4 206 013 children in each of the two rounds.

“The vaccines for both round one and two have already been received in country and prepositioned in all provinces and cities. Vaccination will be done through deployment of house-to-house and mobile vaccination teams in addition to vaccination at all health facilities during the campaign days.

“Given the contagious nature of circulating polioviruses and their capacity to evolve over time to a type that causes serious disease and debilitating paralysis, the ministry strongly encourages all parents and caregivers of children to ensure that all children below 10 years of age are vaccinated against polio and protected,” Kwidini said.

Botswana, Burundi, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda and Zambia have also reported polio outbreaks.

“We are collaborating closely with these countries through regular coordination calls and meetings and where feasible we conduct synchronized vaccination campaigns in response to this threat,” Kwidini added.