WHO says polio is an emerging public health concern

An emergency committee of the World Health Organization has recommended polio as an emergency public health concern following

the upsurge of cases.

The paralyzing disease, according to the committee, is a serious health threat that could spread globally as efforts of fighting the disease reveals stagnation. In the committee’s recommendation, Kenya, is among countries

classified as potential risk of international spread with most recent detection of the disease recorded on last year. Kenya, among other Countries including Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Niger and Somalia remains countries of major concern.

“The outbreaks of polio in Somalia, Kenya, DR Congo, Niger and Somalia continue to be of major concern, particularly the apparent international spread between Somalia and Kenya and the recent spread from Nigeria into Niger, given that traditionally viruses have rarely spread across borders. Conflict and population movement within and outside DR Congo indicate a degree of risk of spread,” the statement by the committee released on December 30 said.

The countries, according to the Committee, have been recommended to intensify regional cooperation and cross border coordination to enhance surveillance for prompt detection of the disease as well as increase immunization

coverage. The countries, the committee stated, are also required to provide detailed reports to the Director General of the World Health organization at the end of the year, if without evidence of any transmission. “At the end of 12 months without evidence of transmission, provide a report to the Director-General on measures taken to implement the Temporary Recommendations,” the committee noted. The Countries are also required to officially declare that the interruption of the disease is a national public health emergency.

WHO noted that 27 cases of wild poliovirus have been recorded worldwide in 2018 compared with 22 total cases in 2017.The committee said the trend, however small, reveals stagnation in the fight against the disease. The Committee commended the continued high level commitment seen in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the significant degree of cooperation and coordination, particularly in reaching high risk mobile populations that frequently cross the international border. The committee noted that it is four years since there has been international spread outside of these two epidemiologically linked countries.

However, the Committee expressed concern on the increase in the disease cases globally in 2018, especially in Afghanistan. In Pakistan the

committee noted, the situation in 2018 stagnated, with the number of cases so far at the same level in 2018 as for the whole of 2017.

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