Uganda confirms Polio outbreak even after WHO’s wild-polio free certification

UGANDA – Ugandan Ministry of Health has declared Polio a Public Health Emergency in Uganda following confirmation of positive laboratory tests from environmental samples in Kampala.

This comes after the World Health Organization (WHO), certified Uganda and the rest of Africa as wild-Polio virus free in August 2020.

Samples collected from two sentinel environmental sites in Kampala and tested at Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) confirmed a circulating Vaccine Derived Polio Virus type 2(cVDPV2). The virus detected has genetic linkage with a cVDPV2 strain reported in Sudan.

Polio is a viral disease that is transmitted from person to person, mainly through a faecal-oral route or, less frequently, through contaminated water or food, and multiplies inside the intestines.

The disease has resurged with another strain known as the ‘Circulating Vaccine Derived Poliovirus (cVDPV)’ that affects children in the communities with low immunity levels.

In the past 12 months, over 19 African countries have declared cVDPV2 outbreaks, including three countries bordering Uganda: The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan, and Kenya.

The resurgence of Polio in Uganda may be attributed to the reduced routine immunization and Polio immunization rates in the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also, incessant cross-border movements among neighboring countries and the countries from the Horn of Africa region currently affected by cVDPV2 outbreaks pose a risk of further Polio-importations to the country.

At the forefront of the global Polio eradication efforts, Uganda was certified free of all Polioviruses in 2006. However, it has been under constant threat of Polio importation from other Polio-endemic countries in the region.

In response to the Polio outbreak, the Ministry of Health has heightened surveillance of Polio in the country by Intensifying search for Polio cases in all health facilities by reporting and investigation of all children under fifteen years with sudden onset of paralysis or weakness in the arms or legs and expansion of environmental surveillance.

Additionally, the Ministry will conduct a nationwide Polio immunization campaign in October and December 2021 during which health-workers will visit house-to­ house and vaccinate all children aged 5 years or below against Polio.

All health workers participating in the campaign will wear masks and strictly observe the COVID-19 SOPs to ensure children are safely vaccinated.

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