Sep 2, 2009

What prevents preventable Polio

Poliomyelitis is a highly infectious viral disease that mainly affects children under five years of age and may cause total paralysis. Although there is no cure fo r polio, it can be prevented through the administration of the Oral Polio Vaccine OPV which offers lifetime protection.

Sine the launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988 there has been a 99% drop in the number of polio cases worldwide. The current epidemiological challenges are the pockets of polio transmission in India, the Pak-Afghan border and Nigeria where 98% of all global cases are concentrated.

As long as a single child remains infected with polio, children everywhere are at risk. The virus spreads via bowel excrement and can rapidly spread through un-immunized populations, especially where substandard sanitation exists. Since the disease is largely symptom less, causing paralysis Organization (WHO) considers even a single confirmed case as a polio epidemic.

Pakistan has been following a four step polio eradication plan outlined by the WHO. The steps are:

At least four doses of OPV in the first year of life.

Supplementary immunization activities (SIAs) (booster doses) for children under five years of age

Active surveillance and laboratory testing of all reported polio cases in children less than 15 years of age in any area reporting confirmed polio cases.

“Mop-up” campaign for targeted areas where polio cases have been detected.

According to the WHO, 31 cases were reported in Pakistan 2007 compared to the 11 which wee reported so far this year (most of them in Sindh) which begs this question as to what are the reasons behind the repeated re-emergence of polio despite extensive anti-polio campaigns.

Perhaps it is time to question the efficiency and relevance of the vaccine being used. At least two reported cases have received routine and several supplementary immunization doses. The question then arises as to whether the OPV being employed is for the correct form of the disease.

In the Cold Chain being maintained diligently? For the vaccine to be efficacious, it needs to be kept a below freezing (-20 degrees) all through its travel from the manufacturer to the target. How trained and committed are our vaccinators in ensuring that this criterion is met and do they actually understand the enormity of the task they have been trusted with?

Lastly, is the general public aware of the deadliness of polio and the extent to which un-immunized children are vulnerable to the disease, especially given the pollute water supply and poor sanitation practices?

By Dr. Summaiya Syed Tariq: The writer is pursuing post graduation at the Dow University of Health Sciences.

No comments:

Post a Comment