Eight cases of a wild polio virus type were reported in Togo, Burkina Faso and Ghana this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday. The cases included six in Ghana and one each in Burkina Faso and Togo.
Before the cases were reported through high quality surveillance, WHO said, Burkina Faso had been polio-free except for one case that was detected in 2001 while Ghana had been polio free since 2001 and Togo since 2000.
It warned that given the close proximity of the three countries to Nigeria, one of the three main polio virus reservoirs in the world, the risk of more importations remained high.
As a result of the high risk, WHO said, the ministries of Health in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Niger, Cameroon and Chad had decided to conduct synchronised National Immunisation Days, targeting children under five years of age from 22 October.
"It is critical that every child is reached during these activities to ensure that population immunity is high enough to stop any transmission of wild polio virus and to protect against further importations," WHO said.
Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus which invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. The virus enters the body through the mouth and multiplies in the intestine.
Initial symptoms include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck and pain in the limbs. One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis (usually in the legs). Amongst paralysed patients, 5-10 percent die when their muscles become immobilised inhibiting breathing.
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