Kenyan Health Officials Confirm 13 New Polio Cases
Kenyan health officials on Wednesday confirmed that they have identified 13 new cases of polio during the past three months, AFP/Google.com reports. Although Kenya eradicated polio 25 years ago, the country issued an alert in February after a case of rare wild polio was confirmed prompting a nationwide vaccination drive (AFP/Google.com, 5/20).
Despite two nationwide campaigns early this year, Shahnaaz Shariff, Kenya's director of public health, said that the new cases might have arisen because of poor routine polio immunization. He said the new cases were reported in the Turkana district in northern Kenya and that the virus probably originated in neighboring countries and entered through the border. According to health experts, almost 80% of the reported cases had not received a single dose of the oral vaccine.
Shariff said that a third round of the vaccination campaign would begin on May 22 and target 2.3 million children younger than age five. "Independent monitors will go to houses and check if the child has been immunized. We will mark the house and make sure that the children who have been immunized have their fingers dipped in ink which cannot be removed," he said, adding that the government has set aside 61 million shillings or $780,000 for the third phase of the campaign (Ooko, Xinhua, 5/20).
"The threat of polio is still there and the only time we can afford to relax is when all our children have been vaccinated with at least three doses of oral polio vaccine," Dahir Duale, a WHO immunization advisor, said. "We appeal to ministry officials to double their efforts to make sure that all our children get their routine vaccination doses."
About 300,000 children in Kenya are not reached through routine immunization efforts, according to UNICEF Chief of Health Sanjiv Kumar. "[T]hese are the children who are most at risk when any virus is introduced from outside like polio," Kumar said (Ndong'a, Capital News, 5/20).
Before the announcement of the new polio cases in Kenya, at least 16 cases had been confirmed in the Horn of Africa region, according to Xinhua. Two were in Kenya, three in Uganda and 11 in Sudan, according to the WHO. The total number of cases for 2008 was 29. The Ugandan cases, reported in the northern district of Amuru, were the first in 13 years. Ethiopia has not reported new cases in the past six months (Xinhua, 5/20).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.