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Confirmed Wild Poliovirus Infections Reported In Cameroon: WHO

The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) revealed Thursday that infections with wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) has been confirmed in Cameroon for the first time since 2009.

According to WHO, wild poliovirus was isolated from two acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) cases from Cameroon's West Region. The patients developed paralysis on October 1 and 19 respectively. Subsequent genetic sequencing has indicated that these viruses are linked to wild poliovirus last detected in Chad in 2011.

WHO said an emergency outbreak response plan is being finalized for tackling the situation in the region, including at least three national immunization days (NIDs). Incidentally, the first of the NIDs was conducted on October 25-27.

The UN agency said sub-national immunization days (SNIDs) will be implemented in the region in December, followed by two subsequent national immunization days in January and February 2014.

Noting that routine immunization rates have been estimated to be approximately 85.3 percent for oral polio vaccine (OPV3), WHO said a response in neighboring countries is also being planned, particularly in Chad and Central African Republic.

"Considering that this strain was last detected in the region in 2011, plans are also being developed to strengthen surveillance activities starting with a detailed analysis of sub-national surveillance sensitivity across the region to more clearly ascertain any gaps." the WHO said.

Cameroon had reported four cases due to circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2) in the Far North region earlier in the year. The patients developed paralysis between May 9 and August 12.

The viruses responsible for those infections were linked to circulation in Chad, which was also detected in Nigeria and Niger. In response, several large-scale supplementary immunization activities (SIAs) were conducted in the months of August and September, followed by the full national immunization days in October.

WHO stressed in its press release issued Thursday that the latest developments confirm the risk of ongoing international spread of a pathogen (wild poliovirus) slated for eradication.

Taking into account the international spread of polio from northern Nigeria across West and Central Africa and subnational surveillance gaps, WHO has assessed the risk of further international spread across the region to be "high."

The UN health agency urged all countries, in particular those with frequent travel and contacts with polio-affected countries and areas, to strengthen surveillance for acute flaccid paralysis cases in order to rapidly detect any new virus importations and to facilitate a rapid response.

"Countries, territories and areas should also maintain uniformly high routine immunization coverage at the district level to minimize the consequences of any new virus introduction," the WHO press release concluded.

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