First polio case in 13 years

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Photo: Celeste Hicks/IRIN. A child receives vaccination against polio (file photo): Uganda
has confirmed its first polio case in 13 years

KAMPALA, 27 February 2009 (IRIN) - Thirteen years after Uganda was declared polio-free, health officials are considering an emergency operation to avert an outbreak after one case was confirmed in the north.

"A sample from a baby in Amuru district has been confirmed positive and we have decided to launch an emergency vaccination drive mid-March for all children below five in 25 districts neighbouring Amuru," Sam Zaramba, the director-general of health services, told IRIN.

"We shall take on another 25 districts in the country after the first batch."

Zaramba said tests conducted at the African Regional Reference Laboratory in South Africa had confirmed the wild polio virus type one outbreak in the sample taken from the 16-month-old baby.

"Now that the virus has finally entered the country, all the children below five are at risk of contracting the disease because the wild type of polio virus is very infectious and can challenge their defence systems," he said.

"We are appealing to every parent or caretaker responsible for children below five to ensure they are fully immunised," he added, saying district authorities had been put on alert to mobilise communities.

According to the ministry, when the virus invades nerve cells in the brain or spinal cord, paralysis of muscles that control swallowing and breathing occurs, rendering the child�s limbs, legs and trunk flaccid.

Globally, polio has diminished although it still occurs in areas of the Indian sub-continent and in west and central Africa. Uganda was certified polio-free by the World Health Organization in October 2006.


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