By Mike McQuestion
Here at the WHO African Regional Conference on Immunization in Ouagadougou we heard today about new polio outbreaks in DR Congo, Uganda and Kenya.
Since September, there have been around 1,000 cases in DR Congo and neighboring Republic of Congo (Brazzaville). Most of the cases have been in young adults. Case fatality rates are around 40-50%. Many adults, the data tell us, were susceptible. They were never vaccinated and never encountered the wild poliovirus as children. When high vaccine coverage is not maintained, susceptible pool in each birth cohort. The epidemic happens when there are enough susceptible to permit the poliovirus to transmit. The outbreak is a sobering reminder that once polio transmission is interrupted, countries must keep their polio vaccine coverage levels above 80%. That requires a well functioning, adequately resourced routine immunization program.
Reacting to the presentation this morning, Hon. Grégoire LUSENGE KAKULE, a Member of Parliament from DRC and Sabin peer exchanger to this meeting, vowed to investigate the situation in his constituency and to report his findings to his fellow National Assembly Health Commissioners.