Angola: Health services on stand-by after reports of polio

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

JOHANNESBURG, 13 July (IRIN) - The Angolan health authorities have intensified medical surveillance, following reports of two cases of polio.

The UN's World Health Organisation (WHO) has also notified neighbouring countries, following reports of the two cases - the first since 2001.

"One of the cases was reported in the capital, Luanda, while the other was in Lobito in the province of Benguela," said Nicolas Velarde of WHO's polio eradication project in Angola.

Angola's ministry of health, supported by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative partners, had already planned for two National Immunisation Days in July and August to protect the country's polio-free status.

The immunisation drive is being stepped up and will cover five million children aged under five, according to Velarde.

The campaign, which requires external financing of US $3.74 million, is supported by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Canadian International Development Agency, the European Commission, the US Agency for International Development and the governments of Spain and Portugal.

Any eventual third round of immunisation days would require an additional $1 million.

The Angolan authorities reported the first case of polio to WHO in the last week of June, when a 17-month old girl in Luanda, with a previous history of oral polio vaccine, developed fever and paralysis in both legs.

Both cases have been tied to a strain of virus found in India. According to WHO, epidemiological evidence suggested the disease had been imported.

"Importations such as this, and other recent ones into Indonesia and Yemen, underline the importance of stopping transmission in endemic countries with indigenous poliovirus. Until polio is eradicated everywhere, all countries remain at risk," WHO said a statement.

Community and religious leaders, NGOs and traditional healers in all the municipalities of Luanda province are being briefed.

Angola's last polio case occurred in September 2001. An outbreak of over 1,000 cases in 1999 was met with repeated supplementary immunisation; only 55 cases were reported by 2000.


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