Following President Lazarus Chakwera’s order, the Ministry of Health has declared a public health emergency after one polio case was detected in the country.
This is the first case to be detected in the country in 30 years. The last polio case was detected in 1992. On the African continent the last case of wild polio virus was identified in northern Nigeria in 2016 and globally there were only five cases in 2021.
Polio is a viral disease which can be passed from one person to another through ingestion of contaminated food or water. It causes irreversible paralysis mainly in children between zero and fifteen years of age. It also has potential to affect adults with weak immune systems.
President Chakwera asked for vigilance from all Malawians for the country to manage the spread of the disease which he said has come at the back of other calamities such as Covid-19 pandemic and Cyclone Ana.
“I want you to remember that we are a resilient nation and we will rise out of this season of calamity, not only because we are a strong people, but also because we have many friends around the world who are ready to come to our aid,” the President wrote on his official Facebook page.
A Statement from Minister of Health Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda says laboratory results show that this is an imported case as there is no evidence of community circulation of the virus.
“The Ministry would like to assure the nation that the situation is under control and would like to encourage the general public to continue observing good personal hygiene practice as we know that the virus is spread through ingestion of contaminated food or water,” reads part of the statement.
An Aljazeera report says investigations show that the infection is linked to a strain currently circulating in Pakistan’s Sindh province.
Meanwhile, World Health Organization is giving assistance to health authorities by carrying out a risk assessment and outbreak response and deploying the Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s (GPEI) rapid response team. It is also stepping up supplemental immunisation.
The organization says it is treating the Malawi case seriously to maintain Africa’s status as polio-free
“Any case of wild polio virus is a significant event and we will mobilize all resources to support the country’s response,” said Dr Modjirom Ndoutabe, polio coordinator in the WHO Regional Office for Africa.