Mozambique’s health authorities announced the outbreak of wild poliovirus type 1 on Wednesday after confirming that a child had contracted the disease in the country’s northeastern province of Tete. According to a press release from the World Health Organization (WHO), this year marks the second imported case of wild poliovirus in South Africa after an outbreak in Malawi in mid-February.
So far, a case has been identified in Mozambique, the first in the country since 1992. According to the country’s health officials, the virus was found in a child who started paralysis in late March. “Genomic sequencing analysis indicates that the newly confirmed case is linked to a strain aired in Pakistan in 2019, similar to the case reported in Malawi earlier this year,” the WHO said.
However, the cases reported to Mozambique and the previous ones in Malawi do not affect Africa’s wild poliovirus-free certificate because the strain of the virus is not indigenous. In August 2020, Africa was declared indigenous wild polio free after eradicating all forms of wild polio from the region.
“The detection of another case of wild poliovirus in Africa is extremely worrying, even if it is surprising given the recent outbreak in Malawi. However, it does show how dangerous the virus is and how fast it can spread. “We support the governments of South Africa in increasing the fight against polio, including conducting large-scale effective vaccination campaigns to prevent the spread of the virus and to protect children from harmful effects,” said Dr Matsidiso Moeti, Regional Director for the World Health Organization in Africa.
Meanwhile, health officials are conducting an investigation in Mozambique to determine the extent of the risk posed by the new wild polio virus case and the necessary targeted responses. In addition, preliminary analyzes of samples collected from three contacts of newly identified cases were negative for wild poliovirus type 1.
The Global Health Agency added that Mozambique recently conducted two mass immunization campaigns – in response to the Malawi outbreak – in which 4.2 million children were vaccinated against the disease. In addition, efforts are currently being made to strengthen disease surveillance in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Five countries will continue to provide mass immunizations next week with plans to vaccinate 23 million children aged five and under, the WHO said.
The wild poliovirus is endemic worldwide only in Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to health experts, polio is highly contagious and mainly affects children under the age of five. There is no cure for polio, and it can only be prevented by vaccination. The WHO warns that children around the world will be at risk of wild polio type 1 until the virus is finally eradicated in the remaining regions where it is still circulating.