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At least 101 people dead in DR Congo due to polio epidemic

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At least 101 people dead in DR Congo due to polio epidemic

2010-11-12 00:06:37 GMT+7 (ICT)

POINTE NOIRE, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO (BNO NEWS) -- The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday informed that the first wave of mass polio immunization campaigns will begin on Friday as the polio epidemic has claimed the lives of 101 individuals in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The unusual outbreak of poliomyelitis is primarily targeting adults and most of the cases have been reported from the port city of Pointe Noire. The DR Congo launched an emergency response plan with support from WHO, UNICEF and others.

The first vaccination response will use the monovalent oral polio vaccine type 1 (mOPV1) and will be administered to the whole populations of Pointe Noire and Kouilou, as well as the province of Cabinda in Angola. The vaccines will be given to nearly 3 million people of all ages.

Tests determined that the cases are caused by a polio-virus most closely related to the one registered in the neighboring Angola. The polio outbreak has affected Pointe Noire mainly, but cases have also been reported from Niari, Bouenza, Brazzaville, and Kouilou. Most of the cases involved young adults aged between 15 and 29.

A cumulative total of 226 cases of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) have been recorded in addition to the unusually high mortality of 101 deaths. Populations are at great risk as they have not been exposed to full immunization.

"Every man, every woman, every child will be immunized irrespective of their past immunization status," says WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr. Luis Sambo. "This way we can be assured that everybody is reached, including young adults, whose immunity may be low."

The first case of AFP was registered in a Pointe Noire hospital on October 1. Most of the cases (about 159) were reported between October 11 and 31. WHO urged countries across central Africa to strengthen surveillance for cases of AFP to detect on time and facilitate a rapid response.

Two additional nationwide rounds of vaccination have been planned that will cover the rest of the Congolese territory. The next wave of mass vaccination will begin on November 18. The multi-country campaign may be further expanded to cover additional bordering at-risk areas if new cases are reported.

"The Government has a good assessment of the situation; it is worrying. Partners and resources are being mobilized to implement an appropriate response and to ensure a good take-up by the population", said the Minister of Health and Population of the Republic of Congo Georges Moyen.

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-- © BNO News All rights reserved 2010-11-12

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