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Gov’t declares public health emergency over resurfaced polio

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By Omar Bah

The Gambia Government on Wednesday declared a national public health emergency across the country following the confirmation of two positive cases of polio type 2 in The Gambia.

Health minister Ahmadou Lamin Samateh told journalists at a news conference that the declaration came in accordance with the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) on polio outbreak response standard operating procedures, as well as the International Health Regulations 2005.

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Since 1986, no cases of polio originated from the country, prompting the World Health Organisation (WHO) to declare in 2004 the country as free of the wild polio virus.

But Minister Samateh said: “Two environmental samples collected from sewage sites, one from Banjul and the other from Kotu, have tested positive for poliovirus type 2.”

This, he added, has created “a polio outbreak situation in the country since a single positive poliovirus case is considered an outbreak under the 2005 International Health Regulations, thereby requiring an urgent response to breaking transmission.”

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The Minister added: “It is important to note that this outbreak is evidence of poliovirus circulation within the population but does not mean detection of polio paralysis in the population.”

He outlined the government’s plan to embark on at least two massive supplementary polio vaccination rounds targeting 382,908 children from newborn babies to 59-month-old kids in each round.

 “Our goal is to vaccinate all children 0-59 months in The Gambia. I call on parents to cooperate with the vaccinators. We need to move from hesitancy to vaccination,” Minister Samateh added.

Polio, or poliomyelitis, is a disabling and life-threatening disease caused by the poliovirus, which spreads from person to person and can infect a person’s spinal cord, causing paralysis, according to research.

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