JOHANNESBURG ( Associated Press) – Health officials in Mozambique on Wednesday declared a polio outbreak in the country’s northeastern Tete province after a child was confirmed paralyzed by the disease.
Mozambique’s case is the second imported case of polio in southern Africa this year, after a case detected in Malawi in mid-February. This is the first case of wild polio in Mozambique since 1992, although cases involving a virus mutated from an oral vaccine were detected in 2019.
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According to a statement issued by the World Health Organization, the latest case in Mozambique was found in a child who experienced symptoms of paralysis in late March.
Sequencing indicates that the case in Mozambique is linked to a strain of polio that spread to Pakistan in 2019, as was reported in Malawi earlier this year.
The WHO declared Africa free of wild poliovirus in August 2020, even though several countries on the continent have reported vaccine-related outbreaks in recent years. There is no difference between a disease caused by a wild virus or a virus mutated from a vaccine.
“The detection of another case of wild poliovirus in Africa is very worrying, even if it is surprising given the recent outbreak in Malawi. However, it shows how dangerous this virus is and how quickly it can spread,” Matsyadiso Moeti, Africa director of the World Health Organisation, said.
In response to the case in neighboring Malawi, Mozambique recently launched two massive vaccination campaigns, in which 4.2 million children were vaccinated against the disease, the WHO said.
Disease surveillance is being strengthened in five countries: Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The vaccination campaign is planned to reach 23 million children aged five years and younger in the coming weeks.
Polio is highly contagious, spread mostly through water and largely affects children under the age of five. There is no cure for polio and it can only be prevented by vaccination. The WHO and its partners began efforts to eradicate polio globally in 1988 and have missed several deadlines to eliminate the disease.