Bombed with Polio Information

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK The information campaign on the polio outbreak kicked off yesterday with the release of 250 000 leaflets containing polio information over Windhoek and its surrounding areas. Democratic Media Holdings printed the leaflets for the Ministry of Health and Social Services, according to the Director of Primary Health Care, Maggie Ngha-tanga. Four companies – Standard Bank, Ohlthaver & List, British American Tobacco and the Renaissance Health Medical Aid Fund – provided financing to print the leaflets, which were released by Namibia Commercial Aviation Ltd. In total, one million copies were printed with the remaining 750 000 to be distributed countrywide before the start of the first round of the mass polio vaccinations running from June 21 until June 23. The second round is scheduled for July 18 until July 20 and the third one, which is specifically for children under the age of five, will be conducted from August 22 until 24. The leaflets have general information on polio which include what the disease is, how it is spread, what its signs and symptoms are, how it is transmitted, its treatment, measures that that the public should take to prevent the virus and also what the Ministry is doing. The number of people that have been affected so far has risen to 60 according to Health Permanent Secretary, Dr Kalumbi Shangula, yesterday. The disease that causes paralysis broke out in May and has so far spread to seven regions – Khomas, Hardap, Otjozondjupa, Oshana, Oshikoto, Omusati and Ohangwena and has claimed 10 lives. Namibia’s neighbour offered to help Namibia in its campaign to vaccinate the two million people within the borders of the country but so far, Shangula said South Africa has confirmed to offer cool boxes for the to dispatch of the vaccines. The ministry is yet to get a response on whether that country will send other assistance. The ministry has since received 2.5 million doses of the monovalent oral polio vaccine (mOPV), to be used for the first round of the campaign while training for directors and primary health supervisors on the mass immunisation came to an end yesterday. Shangula added that the training of staff in the regions will start next week. Polio is a crippling disease that mainly shows symptoms like the sudden weakness of the arms and legs, and one in 200 persons infected with the polio virus develop paralysis or poliomyelitis. In areas that have poor hygiene and sanitation, the poliovirus spreads through faecal/oral contamination. The signs and symptoms of polio are at first back pain, neck stiffness or pain, headache, fever, difficulty in walking and muscle pain. After one to five days, the symptoms are lower and upper limb weakness, lower limb paralysis and difficulty in breathing. After exposure to the polis virus, it takes between 7 to 14 days before the onset of paralysis. Although polio is not airborne, it can be transmitted through the stools of infected persons to non-infected persons and also through contamination of water sources especially if a people defecate into the water source. No specific drug is available to treat polio and patients with paralysed limbs should be supported in a neutral position and pain can be relieved with moist heat. Preventative measures against polio transmission include the washing of hands every time after using the toilet and before eating, boiling water if the source is uncertain and also through immunization with oral polio vaccine. In cases of an outbreak, vaccination with mOTV is to be used instead of the trivalent one as the latter would reduce the effectiveness of the ministry’ planned activities.