Health experts have warned of a re-emergence of polio in the country.
The last indigenous case of polio in the country was reported in 1984 and Kenya was certified polio free in 2005.
Unfortunately, the country may no longer have much to smile about as the World Polio Day is marked today, with health experts warning that polio may be making a comeback. This is due to the Covid-19 pandemic and an outbreak in Sudan.
Restrictions brought on by the pandemic, with its attendant socio-economic challenges, have resulted in many parents being unable to access basic healthcare because either they cannot afford it or cannot reach health facilities.
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As a result, health experts have warned of a renewed risk of an outbreak of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2) in those areas.
The cVDPV2 has already been detected in neighbouring Sudan, with the first case reported in the west of the country, bordering Central African Republic and the second one in the east, near the border with Eritrea and Ethiopia.
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Both cases concerned children under four years of age. The disease, which causes disability, has no cure but can be prevented through the administration of a simple and effective vaccine.
Based on risk analysis, about 11 counties have been flagged as having the greatest risk of polio outbreaks. Apart from Mombasa and Nairobi, the other are Lamu, Tana River, Garissa, Wajir, Marsabit, Kilifi, Turkana, Isiolo and Mandera.
The renewed threat of the virus stems from disruption of immunisation programmes due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
“This build-up of under-immunised children has previously contributed to outbreaks of polio. Most of these children come from poor families, the urban informal settlements, and the hard-to-reach parts of the country, particularly arid and semi-arid (ASAL) regions where access to health services is limited,” said Josephine Ojiambo, the Rotary Kenya health focal point.
Dr Ojiambo was speaking at a joint polio immunisation exercise between Rotary Kenya and Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital at Githogoro Slum in Nairobi.
She said missing the polio vaccine placed children at high risk of more problems in future.
Getrude’s Children’s Hospital CEO Robert Nyarango said the increase of cVDPV in the region could be addressed by ensuring 100 per cent immunisation for all children and enhancing hygiene in high-risk populations.