The Polio Global Eradication Initiative announced that “a new wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) case was reported in Equatorial Guinea” on April 16 2014. The country has reported three known cases and due to the genetic sequencing of the virus, health officials believe the virus spread from neighboring country, Cameroon.
This poliovirus outbreak contradicts Equatorial Guinea’s statistics in previous years. The UNICEF Annual Report 2012 for Guinea Bissau declared, “Guinea Bissau has been “polio-free” since 2009…due to vaccination campaigns through child health days and strengthened routine immunization.” According to NPR’s article “Polio Hits Equatorial Guinea, Threatens Central Africa” report, however, the country currently has a vaccination rate of only 39 percent, suggesting that routine immunization programs have decreased since 2009.
Similarly, in Cameroon, the origin of this outbreak, the World Health Organization calculated that 40 percent of children are inadequately vaccinated against the poliovirus. Immunization prevents the spread of the poliovirus, which is an infectious disease with no cure that can cause permanent paralysis. It is communicable via person-to-person contact. Children under the age of 5 are especially susceptible to contracting the virus, making proper immunization campaigns are essential to elimination of an outbreak.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), from January 2014 to April 2014 ten countries reported a total of 61 polio cases. When an outbreak of the poliovirus began in Cameroon in October 2013, the country conducted immunization campaigns in response. On March 17 2014, however, Cameroon confirmed new cases of the poliovirus. In the WHO’s “Poliovirus in Cameroon update”, the WHO elevated “the risk assessment of international spread of polio from Cameroon to very high.” Despite the organization’s attempt to contain the outbreak, the poliovirus spread to Equatorial Guinea.
In an April 24, 2014 UNICEF news note, UNICEF Representative in Equatorial Guinea, Dr. Brandão Có, stated, “Stopping the transmission of polio in Equatorial Guinea is a key priority in order to ensure children, families and communities are protected against this terrible and crippling disease that also has enormous social costs.” UNICEF also reported that a campaign to vaccinate 300,000 children against the virus commenced on April 24, 2014.
— Jaclyn Ambrecht