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Old 20 Jun 2006
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Polio in Namibia

Just in case you don't hear about it there has recently been an outbreak of Polio in Namibia resulting in a number of deaths. The national immunisation program is taking place over the next few days. It is recommended that if you are travelling to Namibia that you get yourself immunised before going.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006 - Web posted at 9:07:40 GMT

Polio: The final countdown

THE long-anticipated mass drive to immunise every single person within Namibia's borders against the wild poliovirus is set to start within 24 hours.

Health officials announced yesterday that the logistics are in place.

On the eve of the largest national health operation in independent Namibia, it emerged that cases of wild poliovirus have been reported in all but two regions.

Only the Kavango and Omaheke regions have not reported any cases.
Countrywide, the number of suspected cases has reached 84.
Of these only 11 have been confirmed as wild poliovirus, Health Permanent Secretary Dr Kalumbi Shangula said yesterday.
The majority of suspected cases - 49 - have been reported in the Khomas Region.
Oshakati in the Oshana Region has recorded 11 cases while the rest of the regions have had one or two cases each.
Shangula said the number of polio-linked deaths had edged up to 12.
All the deaths have been in Windhoek.
Dr Colin Gariseb, who is in charge of the Katutura Hospital where most patients are bedded down in Ward 5A, said most of the polio patients were in a stable condition while 13 had been discharged and were not paralysed.
At first polio results in back pain, neck stiffness or pain, headache, fever, difficulty in walking and muscle pain but after up to five days it causes lower limb weakness or paralysis, upper limb weakness and difficulty in breathing.
Shangula said 6 339 health personnel and volunteers worked around the clock over the weekend to prepare for the mass immunisation and have been sent to Namibia's 34 health districts with the monovalent Oral Polio Vaccine (mOPV).
More than 800 vehicles will be used by 1 339 teams.
"The first two rounds are for every person who finds himself or herself within the borders of Namibia, irrespective of his or her nationality, health status, physical and psychological condition," said Shangula.
The first round of the State-sponsored drive to immunise every Namibian against polio will take place from tomorrow to Friday.
The second round has been set for July 18 to 20 and the third round, which will only include children under the age of five years, is scheduled for August 20 to 24.
Round three will include polio and measles vaccinations as well as vitamin A supplementation.
"Everyone who has received vaccination will be marked with an indelible marker in round one and two, as is done during national elections," said Shangula.
He said the trivalent Oral Polio Vaccine (tOPV) used at some private health institutions earlier was only for children under five years and reduced the immune response to the right monovalent Oral Polio Vaccine (mOPV) that will be administered from tomorrow.
He said the trivalent Oral Polio Vaccine (tOPV) would undermine the effectiveness of the mass immunisation campaign and disrupt the transmission chain.
"But in any case, we ask even those people to come for the vaccine.
We encourage everybody to turn up," Shangula said.
Two million people will be immunised - including visitors.
Unicef flew in 2,5 million doses of the vaccine a week ago and the World Health Organisation helped train health personnel who will administer the drugs.
Apart from the UN agencies, South Africa assisted with vaccine carriers while Cuba's assistance is still on its way.
Unicef spent N$2,1 million (US$312 000) to buy and airfreight the vaccine.
The first polio case arrived at Windhoek's Katutura Hospital from Aranos in the South on May 10.
Meanwhile, South Africa urged its residents to get polio vaccinations before leaving for Namibia.
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (SA) advised people to get a booster dose of polio vaccine, at least 10 to 14 days before travelling.
"When returning to South Africa from Namibia, see a doctor immediately if you develop any symptoms of weakness in the limbs, or inability to move the limbs.
Be sure to tell the doctor that you have recently visited Namibia," the NICD said.
"There is no role for vaccination of people returning from Namibia to South Africa; the vaccine will not prevent the disease if a person is already infected.
Spread of infection can be prevented through good hygiene practices."
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