Two fresh cases of wild poliovirus infections have emerged in Borno state, in Nigeria’s troubled northeast region, after the country had marked two straight years of not recording any new polio cases.
The Cable News reports that Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole confirmed the new cases on Thursday, August 11, while speaking to newsmen in the capital Abuja.
Describing it as a setback for the country, he stated: “It is unfortunate that we have the development. It has set us back. But I can assure the nation that we will do everything possible to be on top of the situation.
“We are meeting again today. We had a meeting yesterday to look at the situation. We are drawing out an emergency plan and in the next 48 hours, we are dispatching a team there and we are going to start immunization.”
The health minister explained that the relevant authorities concerned are working hard to contain the situation saying, “We would do three rounds of special immunization campaigns to make sure that we contain the situation.”
Prof. Adewole added that the two new cases of infection had occurred in Gwoza and Jere local government areas of Borno State, respectively. Located along Nigeria’s border with neighbouring Chad and Cameroun, Borno state has for many years now been the epicentre of the activities of the Islamist group Boko Haram.
This statement confirmed within medical circles that the new polio cases may be linked to the insurgency in the country’s northeast region. There have been worries that for months now that many children affected by the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria’s northeast or living in internally displaced camps had been passed over in the latest rounds of the countrywide immunization against wild polio.
“As an immediate response, about one million children are to be immunized in four local government areas in Borno State,” Prof. Adewole said. “Children in adjoining states of Yobe, Adamawa and Gombe will also be immunized, bringing the number to about five million in the four states.”
He further said that the Federal Ministry of Health, in partnership with international agencies like the WHO and UNICEF, is conducting a detailed risk analysis to clearly ascertain the extent of the virus’ circulation and determine the degree of response required.
Nigeria’s last known case of wild polio infection was in July 2014. It would have been declared polio-free by the World Health Organisation (WHO) if the nation had made it to July 2017 – three straight years – without recording any new cases of wild poliovirus.