Uganda has confirmed the outbreak of Polio following confirmation of laboratory tests from samples in Kampala.
This has been confirmed by the ministry of health in a statement saying the samples were collected from sewage plants in Bugolobi and Lubigi and confirmed for circulating Vaccine Derived Polio Virus type 2 (cVDPV2).
Dr. Henry Mwebesa, the director-general of Health Services said the virus is classified as an orphan with 28 changes from the closest match of mutants, meaning it is likely to have been circulating in the country for two years.
According to Mwebesa, such undetected transmission suggests there are gaps in the national polio surveillance sensitivity that need to be identified and corrected urgently.
“This confirmation comes as no surprise; there has been an ongoing outbreak of Circulating Vaccine Derived Polio Viruses (cVDPV2) over the last two years in the African region,” Dr Mwebesa said.
The ministry said poliomyelitis is caused by a group of three unrelated viruses called Wild Polio type 1, type 2 and type 3.
“Through regular mass polio campaigns, polio-viruses types 2 and 3 have been eradicated globally. The indigenous Wild Polio virus type 1 has been eradicated globally. The indigenous Wild Polio virus type 1 has been eradicated in Africa,” Dr. Mwebesa said.
“When the world was declared free of the most virulent wild polio virus type 2 in 2015, the vaccine against type two was withdrawn from routine immunization in 2016, only leaving vaccines against types 1 and 3,” he added.
According to the ministry of health, the current potential drivers of the outbreak and further spread are cVDPV2 outbreaks in neighboring South Sudan and closest trading partners in Ethiopia, Somalia and Yemen, low mucosal immunity levels against type-2 polio, incessant cross-border movements and poor handwashing practices.
The ministry of health noted that it has heightened its surveillance systems in all health facilities in the country and sentinel environmental surveillance sites in urban centres.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Local Government, district local governments and urban authorities have been urged to ensure that no single child misses out on routine vaccination services. Districts with international borders have been urged to revive cross-border collaborations aimed at enhancing the quality of polio surveillance.
Some of the African countries where the outbreak has been declared in the last 12 months include Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Others are Ethiopia, Guinea, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, and The Gambia.
Polio is a viral disease that may affect the spinal cord causing muscle weakness and paralysis. The polio virus enters the body through the mouth, usually from hands contaminated with the stool of an infected person. Polio is more common in infants and young children and occurs under conditions of poor hygiene.