Poliomyelitis is a highly infectious viral disease that impacts young children and causes paralysis which is permanent. There is no cure for polio, and it can be prevented only by immunization. The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported a high alert in Mali after a baby was found to have the highly contagious, crippling polio virus. The WHO blamed the low vaccination coverage for this case.
WHO said, "A case of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2) has been confirmed in Bamako. Mali authorities had detected polio in a 19-month-old child from Guinea, who was brought to Bamako for medical treatment seven days after paralysis set in on July 20, 2015."
This announcement came less than a month after Africa marked one year since the last recorded case of wild polio, which raised hopes that the continent was moving towards eradicating the crippling disease. WHO spokesman Oliver Rosenbauer said, "But while there have been no cases of wild polio in Africa since August 11, 2014, there have been several cases since then, in Madagascar and Nigeria, of vaccine-derived variants like the one found in Mali."
The two polio cases confirmed in Ukraine last week were due to a type of vaccine-derived poliovirus. Vaccine-derived polio infections are rare and are caused by one type of polio vaccine, which contains small amounts of weakened but live polio virus. The oral polio vaccine (OPV) replicates in the gut and can be passed to others through fecal-contaminated water, thus imperiling unvaccinated children.
The WHO has recommended that OPV be phased out worldwide. The UN health agency called for replacing it by the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV). WHO said, "The latest case is genetically linked to a confirmed case of the virus detected in the Siguiri district, in the Kankan Region of Guinea, in August 2014, which appears to have been circulating undetected across international borders for more than two years. The risk of spread of this virus is deemed high and it has the capacity to cause paralytic disease in humans or kill. The emergence of the virus revealed low population immunity against the virus due to low rates of vaccination coverage in Guinea. The oral polio vaccine must now be administered multiple times to stop the outbreak and protect children."
WHO further added, "We are helping the health ministries in both Mali and Guinea to investigate the circumstances behind the emergence and spread of the virus, and to mount a robust vaccination campaign to put an end to the outbreak. It is highly important for communities to ensure that all under-five children are vaccinated during the three rounds of polio campaigns. The first vaccination round would begin this week in Mali and within two weeks in Guinea."