Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Burundi attempts to vaccinate 1.5 million children against polio

From AFP: In the picture, people wait for the polio vaccine in Namibia.

BUJUMBURA — Doctors in Burundi started vaccinating Oct. 26 1.5 million children against wild polio after the first cases for ten years were confirmed in the north west, a medical source told AFP.

"Burundi launched this morning a three-day vaccination campaign against type-1 wild polio," announced Dr Olivier Kagabo, who is heading the vaccination programme in Burundi.

"It is a response to the discovery of two cases of wild polio at the end of September in the northwestern province of Cibitoke, on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda," he added.

In total, 1,515,382 children under five will receive the vaccination, provided by the UN Children's Fund.

Dr Kagabo said the virus "was imported from the east of the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo where cases were discovered around two months ago."

"The same vaccination programme is organised simultaneously in Sud-Kivu (province in the east of DR Congo) and in the Southern province of Rwanda, to create a block against this very virulent virus" Dr Kagabo said.

Polio is transmitted through the consumption of contaminated food and water. The virus is highly infectious and can easily overwhelm the immune system of those who have not been vaccinated.

Polio remains endemic in just four countries in the world, the hotbed being Nigeria, followed by India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.