Outbreak Cases Still a Mystery

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By Anna Ingwafa WINDHOEK Although the country has of late been alarmed by the spread of a strain of wild poliomyelitis, only some 15 out of the 147 suspected cases have been confirmed, while the others still remain a mystery, says a senior medical doctor employed by the state. Namibians have undergone an emergency national polio vaccination exercise, the largest of its kind since the country attained independence 16 years ago. The fast spreading wild poliovirus outbreak rose to 147 acute flaccid paralysis cases and a total of 17 deaths were reported. Local health officials have already sent dozens of samples to a laboratory in neighbouring South Africa for confirmation on whether they are positive for the poliovirus. Windhoek Central Hospital Superintendent Dr Jack Vries yesterday told New Era that the ministry has no idea when these results will be out. “We cannot predict when the results are coming but all I can say is that we will get the confirmation as soon as people in South Africa are done with the tests,” assured Dr Vries. So far, two of the infected people are in intensive care, one of whom is in critical condition. Thirty-one patients have been discharged in satisfactory condition. The disease has now spread to all but one of the country’s 13 regions. Only Omaheke is not affected. Currently, the Ministry of Health and Social services is having a meeting to evaluate the process of round one and plans are afoot for round two. The polio outbreak, which started a month ago, has affected all ages, although most of the suspected patients are between the ages of 20 and 40. It is the first time in the history of the country’s health system that it has had to undergo an emergency polio vaccination that was spearheaded by the Ministry of Health and Social services and the World Health Organization. Over the past eight years Namibia has successfully managed to carry out its national immunisation campaigns against diseases such as polio and prior to the polio outbreak, the country was on the verge of being declared polio-free. To date Namibia is the second in Africa with high polio cases after Nigeria.