By Anna Ingwafa WINDHOEK The Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Richard Kamwi, has appealed to the public to remain calm in the face of the increase from 167 to 178 the number of suspected cases of wild polio. The disease has claimed seventeen lives since the first case was detected. Fifteen of these cases have so far been confirmed to be those of the disease that causes paralysis. Thus far, some 32 people have been discharged from the state hospital in Windhoek while 33 were sent home from the health facility at Oshakati. In a development that may seem to be related to the local outbreak, the Botswana Health Ministry has forwarded a specimen to South Africa for confirmation of what is suspected to be a wild poliovirus last week. SABC Television on Thursday night reported that two cases of polio were detected in Ghanzi in Botswana. Kamwi after confirming the report with his counterpart in that country said in actual fact it was only one case and not two cases. He said it was too soon to tell if the case was that of polio that may have migrated from Namibia. “It was a suspected case and we cannot conclude anything rather than wait for the outcome of the test,” explained the minister. Botswana’s High Commissioner to Namibia Norman Moleboge said it has not yet been brought to his attention that there had been a polio case detected in Ghanzi. Kamwi urged the public to remain calm, despite the increase in the number of suspected polio cases. “Before the second round of vaccinations this month, we will experience an increase in the number of polio cases, because there are already those who have the virus in their body. We are about to reach the stage whereby the transmission will come to a halt soon,” explained Dr Kamwi during an interview with New Era. He expressed concern about individuals who did not want to be vaccinated due to their cultural and religious beliefs. Kamwi cited some villagers from the Reformed Seventh Day Adventist Church at Masokotwane in the Caprivi Region who refused to be vaccinated citing religious convictions. In a similar case, a certain family from the Khomas Region wrote a letter to the ministry requesting their children to be excluded from the nationwide exercise. “When it comes to diseases, religions or cultural beliefs do not count. We are working according to the Public Health Act and it is an offence to deprive someone of medical attention. We do not want to take drastic measures against our community. I would like to let them know that they are not only violating the Act but also international law. For all the nation and citizens, it is a mandate that they have to be vaccinated,” Kamwi warned. He said the objectors should allow themselves to be vaccinated during the next immunization campaign to avoid unnecessary cost to the ministry should they get sick. The minister however expressed gratitude for the overwhelming response from the World Health Organization, Government and the public at large in the fight against polio. Meanwhile, his ministry is also awaiting the results of unconfirmed samples sent to South Africa for confirmation of the poliovirus. Almost the entire population underwent an emergency national mass polio vaccination last month, in an effort to kick polio out of Namibia. The second round of the vaccination is scheduled for July 18-20 and the last one would be conducted from August 20-24 for those under the age of 5 years.
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