Published On: Mon, Jul 22nd, 2013

Somalia polio outbreak increases by 20, threatens the entire Horn of Africa

The outbreak of polio on the Horn of Africa rose by 21 cases, 20 of which were in Somalia alone, making the “non-endemic country” the number one place in the world as far as polio cases go, according to an NPR report July 20.

Horn of Africa Public domain image/ Lexicon at the English Wikipedia project

Horn of Africa
Public domain image/ Lexicon at the English Wikipedia project

Of the 132 cases of the serious viral disease reported globally in 2013, Somalia accounts for 65 cases, or 49 percent of all cases, based on current Global Polio Eradication Initiative data.

The remaining three polio endemic countries, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, have a combined total of 59 cases at this point in 2013.

Back in May, Somalia reported their first case of wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) since 25 March 2007 and the outbreak has only expanded ever since.

And the outbreak is only expected to get worse. According to UNICEF, the conditions today create a similar risk, comparing this outbreak to the last polio outbreak in Somalia, between 2005 and 2007, there were 228 cases, many of them children from families who were displaced by conflict or famine and were forced to live in camps in basic shelters. and unless measures are taken quickly and comprehensively, the outbreak could spread not only within Somalia but to neighboring countries as well.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the Somalia cases and the eight cases reported in Kenya this year (their first cases since 2011), threaten countries across the Horn of Africa.

Countries across the Horn of Africa are now at risk of this outbreak because of large-scale population movements and persistent immunity gaps in some areas. Immunization campaigns are on-going in both Somalia and Kenya. Immunization campaigns are also planned or being conducted in other areas across the Horn of Africa, including Ethiopia and Yemen, the CDC reports.

Several immunization campaigns have been carried out, with 6 million people targeted for vaccination in an effort to get this outbreak under control. Additional campaigns are scheduled for August.

NPR reports, the Somali outbreak is now forcing UNICEF, the WHO and other international agencies to dedicate vast resources to boost polio vaccination coverage throughout East Africa and parts of the Middle East. Those are resources that can’t be used to attack the virus in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria — which appeared, until now, to be the last few places where polio had a foothold.

Polio is a disease caused by a virus that is mainly spread by eating or drinking items contaminated with the feces of an infected person. Polio can also be spread through water, other drinks, and raw or undercooked food, according to the CDC.

Most people with polio do not feel sick. Some people have only minor symptoms, such as fever, tiredness, nausea, headache, nasal congestion, sore throat, cough, stiffness in the neck and back, and pain in the arms and legs. Most people recover completely. In rare cases, polio causes permanent loss of muscle function in the arms or legs (usually the legs) or death.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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