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Polio strain in Eastleigh linked to poor sanitation

Milliam Murigi @millymur1

The strain of polio discovered in Eastleigh area, Nairobi county,  early this year has been linked to poor sanitation and cross-border migration.

Speaking at the sideline of World Polio Day celebrations in Nairobi on October 24, Nairobi County Disease Surveillance Coordinator Raphael Muli said low immunisation coverage in neighbouring countries is putting Kenya at risk.

“Cross-border migration is a big hindrance towards a polio free world because this causes administrative challenges centred on tracking who has been vaccinated,” he said.

He said although education has been a key element during polio campaigns, many parents remain sceptical about repeated vaccination of their children.

“We have heard mothers complaining about side effects such as mild rashes and diarrhoea. We want to assure them that the vaccine is safe and effective and the more doses a child takes, the better because it makes him or her more protected,” he added.

He revealed that the discovery of the strain will cost the country approximately Sh90 million for 12 counties where the campaign is currently running.

“I want to urge parents to embrace such campaigns because this is the only way we will be able to make Kenya polio free. Though the campaign is almost coming to an end, it will be back next year because we need our children to be safe,” said Muli.

World Health Organisation Director of polio eradication Michel Zaffran said multiple rounds of vaccination is necessary because children in the most risk areas are often affected by other viruses or bacterial infections which makes it harder for the vaccine to work.

“The only way countries can reduce these multiple vaccinations is by improving their sanitation and diet because polio is mostly transmitted through contaminated water or food,” he said during a webinar organised by Sanofi Pasteur in preparation for World Polio Day.

Kenya was to be declared polio- free this year but discovery of the virus has pushed the efforts back by three years. The virus, known as circulating vaccine-derived polio virus type 2, has the capacity to cause paralysis in un-immunised people.

It is commonly found in a weakened form in the oral polio vaccine. Whereas the weakened virus does not affect the person vaccinated as the individual develops immunity against it. When excreted and exposed through sewer, it has the potential of causing an outbreak in a population with weak immunity.

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