Friday, April 16, 2004

Botswana: polio case reported, linked to Nigeria

It's a long way from Nigeria to Botswana but it appears the polio case reported in Botswana is the same as the strain afflicting northern Nigeria.
''It is definitely from northern Nigeria," said Deo Nshimirimana, WHO's regional adviser in Africa for vaccine preventable diseases in a telephone interview from Harare, Zimbabwe. ''We tested it and retested it. The only way we know it is linked to Nigeria is that the lab shows the virus is [genetically] related to the one there."

But no one knows how the seven-year-old boy became infected. The boy, Nshimirimana said, showed weaknesses in his limbs, but later recovered and now is apparently suffering no ill effects; only about 10 percent of such cases do not involve a degree of paralysis.
This is the first case of polio in southern Africa since 1997. Western and central African countries haven't been as lucky.
In the past 18 months new cases genetically linked to the poliovirus endemic to northern Nigeria have occurred in the previously polio-free west and central African countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo.

These cases have been associated with an extensive outbreak in Nigeria after immunization was suspended in some northern states in August 2003 when religious and other leaders voiced concern over the safety of the oral vaccine. As of March 2004, all Nigerian states with the exception of Kano had resumed mass polio immunization.