Timely Detection, Response Key For Control Of WPV In Nigeria – US CDC 

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The government of the United States America through its Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned that the threat of wild polio virus (WPV) re-emergence and the circulating variant of poliovirus two, timely detection and response will be key for control in Nigeria.  

The public health programme specialist, US CDC, Ms. Adeyelu Asekun made this known during a chat with journalists yesterday (August 28, 2022) in Abuja. She added that for the insecurity, working with the military and armed forces would be key to bridging the gaps created by insecurity. 

“In 2020, Nigeria became the last country in Africa to be certified free from the wild polio by the Africa Regional Certification Commission.  

“As a result, African was declared free of this debilitating disease in August 2020. Exactly two years since that certification was received and with a robust surveillance system, Nigeria can quickly detect and respond to wild polio and any other poliovirus.

“This is even more so important now with the confirmed wild polioviruses in Malawi and Mozambique and polio detection in the US and the United Kingdom (UK),” Asekun said. 

She said that despite the achievement of the wild polio virus-free status in the country, there remained challenges to be overcome to ensure that every child five years and below receives the polio vaccine and is protected against the debilitating and life-threatening disease. 

The expert described COVID-19 and other competing priorities at the sub-national level as challenges too. 

“This is where integration will be key and the government of Nigeria has taken up this initiative to ensure a broader reach with limited resources. But these challenges can be overcome. 

“We have seen Nigeria overcome challenges time and time again. We have seen the power of coordination and collaboration at work,” she said.

She stated that the national polio emergency operations centre, under the leadership of the incident manager and the deputy incident manager, with oversight from the executive director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), is an epitome of what true coordination and collaboration is.  

“Partners and donors seated together to deliberate on the best strategies to combat and eradicate all types of polioviruses.  

“It is important to recognise that engagement with traditional and religious leaders was key in the polio eradication efforts in the country, and interfacing with the military was a game changer in completely eradicating wild poliovirus from the country.  

“Since 2012, the US CDC has also worked collaboratively with the Government of Nigeria on polio eradication efforts and it has been a very rewarding experience. Coordination and collaboration work,” she said.  

Asekun, however, said that the US Government in the form of the US CDC and USAID in collaboration with its implementing partners, AFENET and core group polio project, respectively remain committed to staying the course until polio becomes a disease of the past.  

“We will continue to support the government of Nigeria with innovations to ensure that we finish the polio race and we finish it well. Congratulations to Nigeria. Congratulations to us all,” she said.  

The public health expert stated that big recognition of efforts was important for not only boosting morale but for improving performance.  

“We have seen Nigeria improve from 33 per cent routine immunisation coverage to 56 per cent between 2016 and 2021 and this is despite the disruptions made to routine immunisation and primary health care services by COVID-19. 

“And then, there was COVID-19, another seemingly insurmountable challenge that Nigeria faced. But Nigeria has, once again, risen to the challenge. We have seen huge uptakes of COVID-19 vaccinations across many states and numbers are still rising,” she added. 

It is on record that Nigeria has celebrated the three years of a viral illness caused by poliovirus that can lead to paralysis, limb deformities, breathing problems or even death. Poliovirus resides only in humans and passes on to the environment in the faeces of someone. 

Nigeria is the latest country to have officially stopped endemic transmission of wild poliovirus, with its last reported case in 2016. 

Wild poliovirus has been eradicated in all continents except Asia and, as of 2020, Afghanistan and Pakistan are the only two countries where the disease is still classified as ‘endemic’.

Racheal Abujah
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