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Polio alert issued after case in Nyanza

NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 6 – The government has issued an alert on a polio outbreak in the country following a confirmed case in Nyanza.

Public Health Minister Beth Mugo said on Tuesday that the case was reported on a three-year-old boy from Kamagambo area in Rongo district late last month.

The Minister said tests done at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases in South Africa confirmed that the virus was closely related to one detected in Uganda last year.

“One confirmed polio case is considered to be an outbreak and a public health emergency, putting at risk other children in the region,” Mrs Mugo said adding that a single case of polio was indicative that at least 200 people had the virus, could spread it but never develop polio.

She said the case was detected after the young boy sought medical attention at the Kamagambo SDA dispensary following a sudden onset of paralysis of the right lower limb.

The Ministry will now conduct an emergency vaccination campaign between September 24 and 28 in Migori, Homa-Bay, Kisii, Kisumu and Nyamira counties as well as Transmara district which are all near Rongo District, the area of the confirmed case.

“During the vaccination exercise, health workers will move from house to house and vaccinate all children under five years including those who have been vaccinated before,” she stated.

The Ministry will also conduct two additional vaccination campaigns in about 90 high risk districts in October and November.

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The Minister emphasised that the key to stopping polio was to ensure that all children under five years were immunised during each round of polio campaigns whether or not they have been vaccinated before.

Polio is a viral disease of the nervous system with a tendency of causing sudden weakness of the leg and arm (paralysis) and presents with fever, headache, sore throat and gastro-intestinal disturbance lasting up to two days.

Kenya has had two polio outbreaks in the last five years. One was in 2006 in Garissa and another in Turkana in 2009. Both outbreaks were linked to ongoing circulation of polio virus in neighbouring Somalia and South Sudan respectively.

An outbreak in Uganda last year caused the government to conduct an emergency vaccination in Kenya in 22 districts.

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