The spread of polio internationally remains a global public health problem, concluded the Emergency Committee convened by the World Health Organization (WHO).
“The Committee unanimously agreed that the risk of the international spread of the polio virus remains a public health emergency of international concern and recommended that the temporary recommendations be extended for an additional three months,” said the experts. in a press release Tuesday, after their 23rd meeting.
Significant increase in wild poliovirus 1 cases
The Emergency Committee, which met in December, expressed concern over the “significant increase” in cases of wild poliovirus 1 (PVS1), the last of the three strains to be eliminated.
There were 28 cases in 2018, against 113 in mid-December last year, “without we have yet managed to reverse this trend.”
Experts said recent progress “appears to have been reversed,” as the international spread of PVS1 is at its highest point since the declaration of a public health emergency of international concern in 2014.
Transmission remains widespread in Pakistan, where challenges include the persistent refusal of individuals and communities to accept vaccination. There has also been a further spread to neighboring Afghanistan, where persistent instability makes many children inaccessible, especially in the south.
Meanwhile, PSV1 has not been detected in Nigeria for three years, which means that the African region could be certified this year as virus-free. The Emergency Committee also commended efforts to reach children in the northeastern state of Borno, which has been beset by the extremist group Boko Haram for a decade.
With regard to circulating vaccine-derived polioviruses (cVDPV), the Emergency Committee recalled that outbreaks had occurred in Africa, the eastern Mediterranean, Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific region. He also noted that seven countries have reported outbreaks since the last meeting.
In addition, the spread of cVDPV2 has been recorded in West Africa and the Lake Chad region, reaching CAte d’Ivoire, Togo and Chad, while cVDPV1 has moved from the Philippines to Malaysia. .
“The rapid emergence of multiple strains of PVDVc2 in several countries is unprecedented and very worrying, and is not yet fully understood,” the committee said in the statement.
Recommendations by country
Overall, countries affected by wild poliovirus 1, or by circulating strains of poliovirus derived from vaccination, should officially declare that stopping its spread is a national public health emergency, the Committee clarified in its temporary recommendations.
Residents, long-term visitors and travelers to these areas should also be protected from the disease.
The experts also recommended intensifying coordination in order to increase the vaccination coverage of people who cross borders regularly, and to improve the monitoring of the quality of vaccination at transit points as well as the monitoring of unvaccinated travelers. .
Source: UN News Service