Internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Borno State are first in line to receive anti-polio vaccines to help eradicate a new outbreak of the virus.
IDPs are especially vulnerable because of their often dire living conditions.
People living in areas with limited access to running water or flush toilets often contracted polio from drinking water contaminated by infected human waste. According to the Mayo Clinic, the virus was so contagious that anyone living with someone who has the virus can catch it too.
Healthline said: “As a highly contagious virus, polio transmits through contact with infected faeces. Objects, such as toys that have come near infected faeces can transmit the virus. Sometimes it can transmit through a sneeze or a cough, as the virus lives in the throat and intestines. This is less common.”
Nigeria was declared polio-free in August last year.
The Polio Global Eradication Initiative (PGEI) said despite progress, there was still much left to be done. Continued work to reach every last child with the polio vaccine, as well as strengthening surveillance and routine immunisation across the region, would be key to keeping the virus at bay and protecting the gains achieved.
In its weekly report it said 16 cases of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2) were reported: three each in Jigawa and Sokoto, two in Kano and one each in Borno, Gombe, Oyo, Abia, Zamfara, Imo, Kebbi and Nasarawa.
The number of 2021 cases now stood at 65. There were eight cases reported in 2020.
Six cVDPV2 positive environmental samples were reported; one each in Jigawa, Bauchi and Plateau, and three in Abia.
But Abba Ali Ibrahim, the deputy director of immunisation and disease control in the Maiduguri Metropolitan Council’s state primary healthcare agency, said he did not believe the country would lose its polio-free status because of the latest outbreak.
“We are implementing a vaccine programme, either through two drops taken orally or by injections, in Borno across various local governments, prioritising internally displaced persons in Abbaganaram and Bulabulin in Maiduguri and Gamboru, a market town in Borno State because of their vulnerability.”
He said this was because the virus was first detected in the drainage systems in these areas.
A sample, collected from open drainage ditches in Maiduguri, had been sent to Geneva to test and confirm it was the polio virus.
He said the new outbreak had been detected in 16 states in Nigeria, including Borno.
Ibrahim said if waste containing polio entered the drainage systems it would spread rapidly, especially in the wet season when the water flow was strong.
Before implementing the vaccine drive, he said, clinics and hospitals in the area were checked for children who had been admitted with acute flaccid paralysis or other signs of polio infection.
“We also did house-to-house inspections in the area and neighbouring locations asking if a visitor had been there at the time of the outbreak. We emphasised the importance of routinely immunising children,” Ibrahim said.
He urged parents and caregivers to support and comply with instructions from the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the Borno state primary healthcare agency and partners so that they could rid Nigeria completely from the scourge of polio.
The WHO said polio was a highly infectious disease caused by a virus that invaded the nervous system and could cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. It said it mainly affected children under the age of five.
It said immunisation was a key component of primary healthcare and an indisputable human right.
Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that children should get four doses of polio vaccine. They should get one dose at each of the following ages: two months old; four months old; six to 18 months old and four to six years old.