Health expert hails Zim polio surveillance 

Source: Health expert hails Zim polio surveillance -Newsday Zimbabwe

A HEALTH expert has hailed Zimbabwe for its robust surveillance system which has helped the country to detect the presence of the polio virus.

Addressing journalists in Harare on Friday, Global Polio Eradication Initiative co-ordinator Sadiq Umar, said Zimbabwe had one of the best environmental surveillance systems in Africa.

“We are talking about samples that were taken from the sewage system, let me be frank with you, this is one of the countries that have the best canalisation or system of sewage,” Umar said.

“In most countries, we don’t have it as organised as this, there is no environmental surveillance system in Africa that is better than Zimbabwe. We expected to score 50% to be considered as doing very well. All the four sites in Harare have achieved 90% or 100%.”

Umar said the high surveillance levels made it possible to pick the presence of the polio virus.

“When you pick a virus from the environment, it does not mean that this sample was by a Zimbabwean, but we know in the sewage sample, there is a virus. Certainly, for us, one of our children, in Sanyati district, was found to have a case,” he said.

“This virus was analysed. We investigated the child, and at the end of the day, it was linked to one of the viruses in that site,” he said.

He emphasised the need for more interventions to fight the rising challenge which can affect many children if ignored.

 It is reported that an infected child can transmit the disease to 200 others.

 “If there is no intervention, that is the pattern. This is what we have been seeing in the pre-eradication criteria, where we used to have 350 000 children that are paralysed globally each year. Now we are having less than 200 children per annum,” he said.

Health and Child Care ministry polio incident manager Colleen Chigodo said a strong surveillance system, adequate logistics, vaccine supply and quality, service delivery during immunisation services, among other things, complemented each in fighting polio.

 “Surveillance activities are another strategy for polio outbreak response, where we are supposed to monitor our children under the age of 15 years with weakness of limbs. This is routine work; it was not introduced because of the polio outbreak in the region.

“We currently have those three cases, accompanied together with the 17 circulating vaccine-derived polio viruses that were detected from our sewage sites,” she said.

Zimbabwe last recorded a polio case in 1989 and was declared polio free by the World Health Organisation in 2005.