Nigeria hails ‘historic milestone’ after third polio-free year

Updated August 22, 2019

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A child is given a dose of polio vaccine at an immunisation health centre in Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria on August 29, 2016. — Reuters
A child is given a dose of polio vaccine at an immunisation health centre in Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria on August 29, 2016. — Reuters

ABUJA: Nigeria on Wednesday announced that three years had elapsed since it last recorded a case of polio, a key step towards eradicating the notorious disease in Africa.

“Three years without a case of wild polio virus is a historic milestone for Nigeria and the global community,” said Faisal Shuaib, director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, was the last country on the continent to suffer from outbreaks of the wild polio virus, but has recorded none since August 2016.

The West African giant will submit data on its polio cases to the World Health Organisation (WHO) in March 2020, a move that could pave the way for the whole of the continent to be declared free of the virus.

“If the data confirms zero cases, the entire African region could be polio-free by middle of next year,” the WHO representative in Nigeria, Clement Peter, said.

The poliovirus infects the brain and spinal cord, potentially causing lasting muscle pain, weakness or paralysis. The virus only infects humans, with young children highly vulnerable.

It is transmitted through contact with the faeces of infected individuals, such as through unsanitary water or food. It has no cure but can be prevented through immunisation.

Only Pakistan and Afghanistan are still battling incidents of the disease around the world.

The fight against the virus in Nigeria was slowed by the Boko Haram insurgency that has torn apart the northeast of the country over the past decade.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2019