Malawi has recorded Africa’s first WPV case in five years, the Global Polio Laboratory Network (GPLN) confirmed February 17, 2022. The case has been found to be genetically linked to the WPV1 detected in October 2019 in Pakistan’s Sindh province one of the two countries.
“Detection of WPV1 outside the world’s two remaining endemic countries is a serious concern and underscores the importance of prioritising polio immunisation activities. Until polio is fully eradicated, all countries remain at risk of importation and must maintain high vaccination coverage to protect all children from polio,” the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) noted.
The girl showed signs of paralysis from November 19, 2021. On November 26 and 27, her stool specimens were collected for testing.
In February, the presence of WPV was confirmed by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The GPEI also said, “The GPEI is supporting health authorities in Malawi to conduct a thorough assessment of the situation and begin urgent immunisation activities in the sub-region to mitigate any risk of spread. Surveillance measures are also being expanded in Malawi and neighbouring countries to detect any other potential undetected transmission.”
This is the first WPV case in Malawi in three decades. In August 2020, Africa was declared free of WPV. This detection does not change that condition.
Detection of polio in countries where it has been eradicated, has been recorded in the past. The polio eradication program “has moved quickly to successfully stop transmission of the virus in these areas.”
Between January and October 2020, 129 cases of WPV were reported. According to the 30th meeting of the Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations held November 3, Pakistan’s key hurdle in curbing the spread of polio remains “persistently missed children” who have not been vaccinated.
Immigrants, nomads and displaced people are also part of the country’s “high-risk population.” In a conflict zone such as Afghanistan, “the cumulative backlog of unvaccinated children due to extended inaccessibility” is the biggest reason for the continued spread of the disease.
Vigilance is the key in curbing the spread. The Director of Polio Eradication Aidan O’Leary at WHO said, “Ramping up surveillance in Malawi and neighboring countries in response to the detected case. The imperative is to search for evidence of transmission and achieve rapid and high levels of coverage through immunisation response.”