Mass immunizations under way in Nigeria where 3rd polio case found

Health experts fear more cases of polio may be found, including at displaced-persons camps such as Manu, Nigeria, shown here.

A third case of polio in Nigeria, where the disease was believed to have been wiped out, has just been confirmed.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed the case for Rotary International, reporting that a crippled toddler found in an area of the West African nation newly liberated from Boko Haram Islamic extremists.

Nigeria once was the global epicenter of the wild polio virus, but last year it and, in fact, the entire African continent were declared polio free. However, two cases were discovered last month among refugees from the northern state of Borno recently won back by Nigeria’s military.

Unfortunately, more cases of the highly-infectious disease are expected to be discovered in the area where Boko Haram had interfered with Rotary’s polio immunization efforts.  That is key because polio cannot be cured, only prevented by an ongoing immunization program.

To fight the outbreaks, Rotary is participating in a new emergency immunization drive in which last week along saw more than 1.5 million children vaccinated in Borno where, WHO has said, the virus has been circulating undetected for five years during Boko Haram’s  Islamic uprising that has resulted in countless killings.

The campaign is supposed to spread across the country, with a plan to reach 25 million children before the end of this year. However, the U.N. Children’s Fund has warned that about 1 million children are in areas too dangerous to access. The Nigerian military is helping with logistics and other aid, along with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the United Nations and Britain’s Save the Children, as well as government health workers. Military helicopters have been transporting vaccines into places too dangerous to reach by road, and truckloads of troops and armored cars escorted vaccinators elsewhere.

Continued financial support is being sought from Rotarians worldwide as well as from non-Rotarian individuals and organizations.


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