CONGO: Polio kills at least 97

Published on IPS Africa, by Arsène Séverin, Nov. 12, 2010.

BRAZZAVILLE, Nov 12 (IPS) – An emergency vaccination campaign against polio begins Nov. 12 in the Republic of Congo, where an epidemic centred on the southern city of Pointe-Noire has killed at least 100 people since the beginning of October.

According to Congolese health authorities, the epidemic has killed 97 people in Pointe-Noire, the economic capital of the country, two people in Dolisie and one in Nkayi, in the southwest.

A World Health Organization update released on Nov. 9 reported 184 cases of acute paralysis and 85 deaths, noting that the majority of cases have occurred in the population aged 15 and older. Polio usually affects children under the age of five … //

… The vaccination campaign that begins on Nov. 12 will first target the residents of Pointe-Noire, then the rest of the country’s population. Twelve million doses of the vaccine will be required, according to Elira Dokekias.

“The vaccines have arrived very late. Those who are affected can no longer be saved, because it needs at least three weeks to take action, said Anatole Bikou, a medical officer in Pointe-Noire.

The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, has announced support with five million doses coming from stockpiles in Denmark. UNICEF is looking for around $3 million to acquire the remaining doses.

Dr Edouard Ndinga, the official in charge of the country’s Expanded Programme of Immunisation, declined to say how many doses Congo already had on hand.

“We have nothing. We are waiting for the international community to come to our assistance,” said N’zobo.

Figures from the EPI for 2009 showed the rate of coverage for polio in Congo was 90 percent. The last polio infection in the country was recorded in 2000. Authorities suspect the virus came from “a neighbouring country”.

According to the World Health Organization, Angola has reported 25 cases of polio IN 2010, and 28 were recorded in the Democratic Republic of congo. Among the cases found in Pointe-Noire, four people came from Cabinda, the Angolan province adjacent to Congo. “We have relaxed our epidemiological surveillance at the border,” said Elira Dokekias.

The outbreak comes in spite of recent progress in controlling polio. According to WHO, the number of cases globally this year stands at 767, around half the number at the same point in 2009. This is largely due to steep reductions in cases reported from Nigeria and India.

Containing the outbreak in Congo with a vaccination campaign that will extend to neighbouring DRC and Angola is a top priority. (END/2010 – full text).

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