Mozambique’s health officials announced an outbreak of wild poliovirus type 1 on Wednesday after verifying that a child in the country’s northeastern Tete province had got the disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) said in a press release that the current discovery is the second this year of imported wild poliovirus in southern Africa. This is coming on the heels of a mid-February outbreak in Malawi.
So far, only one incident has been identified in Mozambique, the first in the country since 1992. The virus was discovered in a child who started experiencing paralysis in late March, according to health authorities in the nation. “Genomic sequencing studies suggest that the newly confirmed case is linked to a strain that was rapidly spreading in Pakistan in 2019, similar to the reported incident in Malawi at the beginning of this year,” according to the WHO.
However, because the virus strain was imported, Mozambique’s index case and the earlier one in Malawi will not impact Africa’s wild poliovirus-free certification. After eradicating all forms of wild polio in the region, Africa was proclaimed free of indigenous wild polio in August 2020.
“The discovery of a fresh case of wild poliovirus in Africa is deeply disturbing, even if it comes as no surprise considering the recent spread in Malawi.” It does, however, demonstrate how destructive this virus is and how speedily it can propagate. We are assisting southern African governments in stepping up the battle against polio, including large-scale, efficient vaccination campaigns to stop the virus and safeguard children from its harmful effects,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization Regional Director for Africa.
Meanwhile, health officials in Mozambique are investigating the matter to ascertain the risk level associated with the new wild poliovirus infection and the appropriate tailored reaction. Furthermore, preliminary testing of samples obtained from three contacts of the newly discovered case all tested negative for wild poliovirus type 1.
According to the WHO, Mozambique recently conducted two mass vaccination campaigns in response to the Malawi outbreak, during which 4.2 million children were immunized against the disease. Furthermore, efforts are being made to enhance disease monitoring in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Mozambique, and Malawi. According to WHO, the five nations are continuing mass vaccinations, with plans to reach 23 million children from zero to five with the polio vaccine in the upcoming weeks.
The wild poliovirus is only prevalent in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Polio, according to health experts, is extremely contagious and primarily affects children under the age of five. Polio has no cure and must be avoided through immunization. The WHO also warned that children worldwide are still at risk of contracting wild polio type 1 as long as the virus is not eliminated in the areas where it is still spreading.