Health officials are on high alert after three cases of the Wild Polio Virus Type 1 were recently recorded in western Kenya.“Even if one case is detected, it is considered an outbreak as the virus can spread really fast,” Shahnaaz Sharif, the Director of Public Health and Sanitation. The virus, detected in three children in the Kamagambo area of Rongo District, Western Province, is similar to one found in Uganda’s Bugiri District in 2010, according to Sharif.
The virus is most commonly associated with paralysis, and on average, one person in every 200 infected develops irreversible paralysis usually of the lower limbs, said Sharif.
Though polio is targeted for eradication in Kenya, there have been sporadic outbreaks, with cases reported in the northern Garissa and Turkana districts in 2006 and 2009, respectively. The outbreaks were linked to ongoing polio circulation in neighbouring Somalia and Southern Sudan, according to the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation. In 2009-2010, 23 previously polio-free countries were re-infected due to imports of the virus, according to the UN World Health Organization.
“Polio is big to fight against but the government and other stakeholders will do all [they] can in a bid to eradicate this deadly virus,” said Sharif.
A massive immunization campaign is planned in Rongo and neighbouring Homabay, Kisii, Kisumu, Nyamira, Migori and Transmara districts.
“We are targeting at least 1.8 million children aged below five years as we do not want to take [the] chances of letting the virus spread even further,” he said. “There are 200 carriers in every one case detected.”
Epidemiologists have also been dispatched to the region to sensitize health workers about the virus, with parents being urged to seek medical care for children with symptoms such as fever, fatigue, vomiting and stiffness in the neck.