Malawi detects first case of wild poliovirus in Africa in more than five years
The Arab News reported, citing Reuters, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that Malawi’s health authorities have declared a polio outbreak after a case was detected in a young child in the capital Lilongwe, the first case of wild poliovirus in Africa in more than five years.
The WHO said in a statement that laboratory analysis showed the strain detected in Malawi was linked to one that has been circulating in Pakistan, where it is still endemic.
The WHO said: “As an imported case from Pakistan, this detection does not affect the African region’s wild poliovirus-free certification status."
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative said the case in the southern African country was in a three-year-old girl who experienced the onset of paralysis in November last year.
Sequencing of the virus conducted in February by South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed it as type 1 wild poliovirus (WPV1).
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative said: “Detection of WPV1 outside the world’s two remaining endemic countries, Pakistan and Afghanistan, is a serious concern and underscores the importance of prioritising polio immunization activities."
The WHO said the African continent could launch a rapid response because of a high level of polio surveillance.
Modjirom Ndoutabe, polio coordinator in the WHO’s regional office for Africa, said: “The last case of wild poliovirus in Africa was identified in northern Nigeria in 2016 and globally there were only five cases in 2021. Any case of wild poliovirus is a significant event and we will mobilize all resources to support the country’s response."
The WHO said that Polio is a highly infectious disease that invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis within hours. While there is no cure for polio, it can be prevented by administration of a vaccine.