Polio Campaign Takes Off

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK All roads from tomorrow, Wednesday 21 June, until Friday, 23 June, lead to polio vaccination points as the country tries to stem the polio outbreak that has now spread to 11 regions. Since the outbreak of Polio Virus Wild Type 1was reported on 10 May, 84 cases have been reported and 12, all from Windhoek, have died. Of the 84, eleven have been confirmed polio cases. The majority of the cases have been reported in the Windhoek district in the Khomas Region with 49 cases. Only the Omaheke and Kavango regions have not reported any cases of the disease. The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Dr Kalumbi Shangula, told the press yesterday that the Caprivi has reported one case, Erongo one, Hardap four, Karas two, Kunene one, Ohangwena four, Omusati three, Oshana 11, Oshikoto two and Otjozondjupa three. With the arrival of 2.5 million doses of the monovalent oral polio vaccine that was flown into the country by UNICEF last week, the training of health staff from the 13 regions and the dispatch of the vaccines to the regions and 34 health districts, the ministry is now set to vaccinate everyone living within Namibia against the crippling disease. Shangula urged everyone in Namibia to turn up at vaccination points during the two rounds of the Mass Vaccination Campaign scheduled for June 21 – 23 and July 18 – 20. The third round to be conducted from August 22 to 24 is meant for children under the age of five, who, apart from polio drops, will also get Vitamin A supplements and a measles vaccine. He said everyone who has been vaccinated will be marked with an ink marker just like during the elections. Previous immunizations, said Shangula, will not be taken into account because in cases of an outbreak, the monovalent vaccine should be used and not the trivalent one which some clinics and pharmacies have been administering to people in the wake of the outbreak. The administration of the tOPV vaccine reduces the likelihood of the recipient having the appropriate immunological response to the mOPV, which will be administered as from tomorrow. The national exercise, which is estimated to cost in the region of N$27 million, will, according to the PS, involve more than 800 vehicles and 1339 teams in which 6339 health staff and volunteers will be involved. Shangula said South Africa and Cuba offered to help Namibia in its efforts to stem the outbreak and so far South Africa has sent vaccine carriers while Cuba is yet to respond to the ministry’s letter in which it detailed the type of assistance Namibia is looking for. The vaccination points include all clinics, medical centres, shopping centres and some supermarkets, crÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¨ches, some bottle stores, suburbs and community centres while mobile teams will conduct immunisation at identified outreach points. Windhoek alone has 84 vaccination points. Shangula added that to ensure that everyone is vaccinated, “in some areas vaccination teams will carry out a house-to-house immu-nisation to ensure that every person receives their drops of monovalent oral polio vaccine during the first round and again to the second round to receive your vaccination.” Although, the ministry with the help of the business community has started an education campaign in which 250 00 leaflets were released over Windhoek and its surrounding areas last week, the rest 750 000 meant for the other regions, First Lady Penexupifo Pohamba will today (Tuesday 20 June) launch an awareness campaign in Katutura. The campaign starts with a march from the Katutura Health Centre through Independence Avenue to the UN Plaza, where the launch will be held. 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 polio virus, it takes between seven to 14 days before the onset of paralysis. Although polio is not airborne, it can be transmitted through the stools of infec- ted persons to non-infec- ted people and also through contamination of water sources, especially if a person defecated into the water source.