Burundi officials detect polio outbreak linked to vaccine


LONDON — Health officials in Burundi have blamed a vaccine-related outbreak of polio, marking the first case of the paralytic disease in more than three decades in the East African country.

Authorities in Burundi confirmed in a statement Friday that a four-year-old child in the western part of the country has been diagnosed with polio after being in contact with the child. Officials also found traces of the virus in sewage samples, confirming the circulation of polio.

The virus that sickened the children was found to be a mutated strain of polio that initially came from an oral vaccine.

Burundi’s government declared the polio outbreak a national public health emergency and plans to launch an immunization campaign within weeks, aimed at protecting all children up to age seven.

“We are supporting national efforts to accelerate polio vaccination to ensure that no child misses out and suffers the debilitating effects of polio,” said Dr Matshidiso Moti, WHO Africa Director. said

The outbreak is another setback for the global effort to eradicate polio, led by the World Health Organization and partners, which first began in 1988 and initially aimed to eliminate the disease within a dozen years.

Polio is a highly contagious disease that is spread mostly through water and usually affects children under the age of five. There is no cure. Although the oral vaccine used in global efforts to eradicate the disease is highly effective, it requires four doses.

The oral vaccine can also cause polio in about two to four children per 2 million doses. In extremely rare cases, the weakened virus can sometimes mutate into a more virulent form and cause outbreaks, especially in places with poor sanitation and low vaccination levels.

In recent years, the oral polio vaccine has caused more cases of polio than the wild poliovirus. Last year, cases linked to oral vaccines emerged in wealthy countries Britain, Israel and the United States For the first time in years.

Officials last year began rolling out a new oral polio vaccine that they hoped would be less likely to mutate into a version capable of triggering new outbreaks. But the outbreak in Burundi – in addition to six cases in Congo – was traced to the new oral vaccine.

Across Africa, more than 400 polio cases last year were linked to the oral vaccine, including in Congo, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Zambia.

The disease is also strongly prevalent in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where its transmission has never been stopped.

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