Cameroon officials say a fifth case of polio was reported in the capital, Yaounde, this week, despite the launching of a new polio vaccination campaign in the central African country and its neighbors. Health officials are increasing surveillance and encouraging parents, many of whom still resist vaccination programs, to have their children inoculated.
Cameroon’s health ministry says that five cases of type-2 poliovirus variants were discovered in the central African state’s capital, Yaounde, this week.
The Cameroon government says sequencing results indicate the virus belongs to the NIE-ZAS-1 group that circulates in Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Nigeria.
The five cases constitute a national public health emergency given the high risk of the virus spreading very fast in the ongoing rainy season, according to the government.
Alma Mpiki is a pediatrician at Cameroon’s health ministry. She said to stop the spread of the disease as soon as possible the government of Cameroon has increased efforts to vaccinate all children under the age of five.
“There are still sporadic cases (of polio), that is why even though we are beginning to move towards the injectable form of the vaccines, we still continue to give the oral vaccination which is helpful and more efficient in protecting children,” she said.
Alma said the government is sending caravans to markets and communities to ask civilians to make sure all children are vaccinated.
Poliomyelitis is a highly infectious disease that is caused when the polio virus invades the nervous system of an infected person. The World Health Organization says polio has no cure and can cause paralysis and even death.
The outbreak was reported three months after the launch of Africa’s largest polio vaccination campaign since 2020.
Cameroon health officials say they joined the massive inoculation exercise to reach out to children whose parents were refusing to take the children to hospitals for inoculation because of fear of the coronavirus.
Tchockfe Shalom Ndoula is the permanent secretary of Cameroon’s Expanded Vaccination Program.
Tchokfe said the inoculation exercise launched in May was a combined effort by Cameroon, Chad, the Central African Republic and Niger to immunize a total 21 million children under the age of five. He said before this week’s outbreak in Cameroon, 14 type-2 poliovirus infections were detected in sub-Saharan African countries.
Tchocfe said one case was detected in Niger, six confirmed cases were reported in Chad, and seven more in the Central African Republic since January.
Cameron’s health ministry says more than three million children in the country have been inoculated against polio since May.