The Nigerian government is on its way to eradicating the wild polio virus having last reported a case of polio exactly a year ago.
The patient was a 16-month-old boy from Sumaila, Local Government Area in Kano State.
The Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Muhammad Ado, in a statement said, “If all pending laboratory investigations return negative in the next few weeks, Nigeria will officially be taken off the list of polio-endemic countries.”
However, Nigeria will only be taken off the polio list in 2017 and certified polio free by the World Health Organisation if it maintains its zero status leaving Afghanistan and Pakistan as the two countries with cases of polio.
“Consequently, achieving one year without polio is just one of the hurdles the country needs to surmount before being certified polio free in 2017,” said Mr. Ado.
“Today we are looking forward to 2017. We remain committed to finding concrete and sharp solutions to overcome the remaining bottlenecks until we achieve eradication in this country.”
“If this progress is sustained with no re-infection and surveillance remains strong, Nigeria and the rest of Africa will achieve polio eradication by 2017,” the executive director said.
Maintaining this zero status includes further strengthening its surveillance system, improved routine immunization and maintaining high quality campaigns.
WHO has defined poliomyelitis (polio) as a highly infectious viral disease, which mainly affects young children.
The virus is usually transmitted by person-to-person contact, spread mainly through the faecal-oral route or, less frequently, by a common vehicle, contaminated water or food. The virus multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system causing paralysis.
The initial symptoms of polio include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck, and pain in the limbs. If it cause but paralysis, it is often permanent.
There is also no cure for polio, it can only be prevented by immunization.
In 2012, Nigeria having 122 cases of the polio had the highest number of cases reported in the world.
Not yet Uhuru
Mr. Ado said the government and partners say it will take a lot of hard work to remain polio free as campaigns will need to continue and vaccines reaching all children in the country several times a year.
He also said surveillance activities must become even more sensitive so that no virus will be missed while routine immunization coverage needs to improve significantly, especially in the northern states.
“We recognize the need to sustain and re-double our efforts to ensure every child is reached,” he said.
Appreciating efforts made by all in coming this fair, he said, “As Nigeria marks one year without a case of polio and embarks on the road to certification, it is important to pay tribute to the hundreds of vaccinators, community mobilizers, traditional and religious leaders, parents and caregivers who have supported polio eradication efforts for more than a decade, despite the challenges.”
Mr. Ado further called on all health workers, political, traditional, religious and community leaders and all communities to help sustain the gains made towards polio eradication by 2017, when Nigeria will be certified polio-free by WHO.
“Let us not leave any stone unturned until we achieve this collective goal for our country. Working together we can do better,” he said.