By NewsDesk @infectiousdiseasenews
Nigeria has been declared free of wild poliovirus as has the entire African continent, according to UN health officials. Dr Walter Kazadi Mulumbo, WHO Nigeria Country Representative, said, “WHO rejoices with the people and government of Nigeria and acknowledges that wild polio-free certification is undoubtedly the greatest public health triumph in the annals of Nigeria and indeed Africa that will bequeath to posterity lessons learnt and best practices for addressing future public health interventions.”
While a tremendous milestone, officials say it is not the end of the job–all children under five years must continue to be vaccinated against vaccine-preventable diseases.
This is critical to significantly reduce avoidable mortality in Nigerian children under 5 years old, keep polio permanently out of Nigeria, and ensure better health and well being for future generations.
In addition, the independent Africa Regional Certification Commission (ARCC) for Polio Eradication officially declared on Tuesday that the World Health Organization (WHO) African Region is free of wild poliovirus.
This marks the eradication of the second virus from the face of the continent since smallpox 40 years ago.
The last case of wild poliovirus in the region was detected in 2016 in Nigeria. Since 1996, polio eradication efforts have prevented up to 1.8 million children from crippling life-long paralysis and saved approximately 180,000 lives.
“This is a momentous milestone for Africa. Now future generations of African children can live free of wild polio,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “This historic achievement was only possible thanks to the leadership and commitment of governments, communities, global polio eradication partners and philanthropists. I pay special tribute to the frontline health workers and vaccinators, some of whom lost their lives, for this noble cause.”
“However, we must stay vigilant and keep up vaccination rates to avert a resurgence of the wild poliovirus and address the continued threat of the vaccine-derived polio,” said Dr Moeti.
While the eradication of wild poliovirus from the WHO African Region is a major achievement, 16 countries in the region are currently experiencing cVDPV2 outbreaks, which can occur in under-immunized communities.
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