Authorities of the Ministry of Health have declared a public health emergency after announcing that the country is experiencing its first polio outbreak since 2008.
The discovery, which occurred in Montserrado, now dashes the hope of health authorities to continue to count the country Polio free. This comes after the authority isolated two cases of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (type2) from different sites in Monrovia.
According to Minister Whilelmina Jallah, the detected poliovirus has now possibly spread across the county due to the virus high spreading rate, but her administration is working tirelessly to reduce the impact of this new outbreak.
“Because if it is in your system, it will definitely spread. Experience from other countries in Africa and beyond has shown that responding as soon as the virus is detected is key. Therefore I am officially declaring this event as a National Public Health Emergency. The Ministry of Health now plans to vaccinate children from 0 to 59 months old and not to wait until it found in all children,” said Minister Jallah.
Polio is a potentially deadly disease that can spread through communities causing paralysis posing risk to children. Before Minister Jallah’s proclamation, the last known cases of polio in Liberia was in 2008 but the country has since remained at high risk of outbreaks.
The eradication of polio was an outcome of successful efforts which began in 1999 focusing on strategies like maintaining high routine immunization coverage, conducting high-quality Supplemental Immunization Activities (SIAs) and maintaining a strong surveillance system.
The discovered virus, Min. Jallah said came from the Ivory Coast. However, the virus has also been found in neighbouring Guinea and Sierra Leone, thus putting the county on a high alert in the sub-region about a year now.
Min. Jallah further notified the public that a nationwide vaccination exercise is on hand for any potential outbreak, as vaccination plan is finalized to ensure the 9,000 children across Liberia under the age of five are vaccinated.
“We will make sure that the kids are protected and vaccinated. It is important to note that as soon the poliovirus is detected in the environment, it is highly effective to ensure that children are protect quickly,” she added. “What it means is that health authorities have to continue to monitor the situation within the country, and to interrupt the spread of the poliovirus and go back to eradicate it.”
Min. Jallah noted that “This is why we are going to use the door to door campaign this time around; the ministry wants to go to each home to ensure that children are vaccinated across the country.”