The World Health Organization says officials in Mozambique have declared an outbreak of wild poliovirus type 1 after confirming that a child in the country’s northeastern Tete province had contracted the disease. This became the second case of wild poliovirus confirmed in southern Africa this year, after a case in Malawi in mid-February.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa, described the outbreak of poliovirus in Mozambique as “extremely worrying” in a statement.
He said efforts were underway to help strengthen disease surveillance in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, with plans to reach 23 million children aged five and under with the polio vaccine in the coming weeks.
Dr. Ndoutabe Modjirom, Interim Polio Program Coordinator for the WHO Africa Region, said the first step is to run a quality vaccination campaign.
“The second measure is to strengthen surveillance in all our countries so that they can very quickly detect all the polioviruses spreading in our region,” he said. “We have to extend surveillance measures to all other countries. So we have to take measures very quickly to deal with this situation.”
Dr Norman Matara, head of the Zimbabwe Association for Doctors for Human Rights, said the outbreak of diseases may have resulted from the lockdowns that countries around the world had instituted while fighting COVID-19.
“You know with the pandemic, the lockdown and the clinics closing, there is a possibility that some infants and children may have missed their vaccination schedules and thus now we have these emergency outbreaks; measles in Zimbabwe and polio in Mozambique,” he added. The child should be vaccinated. We also urge the government to put in place a robust surveillance system.”
Last week, Zimbabwe announced an outbreak of measles in a province on the border with Mozambique. President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government said it was working with the WHO to vaccinate children across the country.