By Chioma OBINNA & Ogechi ANANABA
Polio, a highly infectious viral disease mainly affects young children under the age five. Transmitted through contaminated food and water, it multiples in the intestine then invade the nervous system. Many infected people have no symptoms but excrete the virus in faeces hence transmitting infection to others.
Initial symptoms of polio include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck, and pain in the limbs. In a small proportion of cases, the disease causes paralysis, which is often permanent. Polio can only be prevented by immunization.
Unfortunately, statistics available have shown that 1 in 200 poliomyelitis infections leads to irreversible paralysis usually in the legs; 10 per cent of children die when breathing muscles become affected.
But thanks for the discovery of oral polio vaccine which has seriously cut down the incidences of polio in many countries across the world including Nigeria. Currently, polio cases have decreased by over 99 per cent as a result of global efforts.
However, the danger of the paralytic disease condition is that as long as a single child remains infected, children in all countries are at risk of contracting polio.
Chairman Lagos State Primary Health care Board, Dr. Olayinka Abosede said between 2003 and 2005, 25 previously polio free countries were re- infected due to imports of the virus mainly from PAIN countries including Nigeria.
In Nigeria both the efforts are on to strengthen efforts towards at least removing the country’s name from the PAIN club.
These efforts have no doubt yielded expected results. A pointer to this is the recent report from the WHO which shows that Nigeria has attained 98 per cent in the fight against polio. Now, only 2 per cent is left for Nigeria to become polio free.
To over come the remaining 2 per cent, efforts must be geared towards ensuring that all children are immunised.
Only last week, the Lagos State Government began its town hall meeting of stakeholders on Polio to address the issues concerning missing children during immunisation days as well as sensitise those who are supposed to protect the children.
In the words, of Dr. Abosede “Parents should help children who are too young to protect themselves by getting them vaccinated against vaccine preventable diseases in line with National Programme on Immunisation for Routine Supplemental and Catch- up Immunisation.
Abosede explained that vaccines are safe adding that Lagos State government has constantly sought and implement improvements to vaccines and immunisation schedules to make it safer.
Abosede who warned that the next epidemic may be a few days away urged community, religious, traditional and opinion leaders to constantly promote the immunisation of children in their areas.
Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola who hinted that already WHO has written a commendation letter to Lagos to champion the fight against polio said Nigeria is currently rated 98 percent in the fight against polio.
While boasting that Lagos has not recorded any case of polio from April last year till date, he said “It is a continuing agitation and the battle is not won until we kick polio
“When you immunise your children, they would not be paralysed and the 2 per cent would be attained. Both parents should be concerned about taking their newborns to the nearest primary healthcare centre to have them vaccinated.”
He urged parents to boil and filter water before drinking and ensure that toilets and bathrooms were kept clean.
Speaking, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Dr Jide Idris who gave the cumulative figures for unvaccinated children in Lagos State for Oral Polio Virus3 for the period January to November 2010 at 113,076 decried the unacceptable high numbers of un-immunised children in the state.
Idris announced that to ensure that the children are immunised this time, the state has began round of local immunisation Days (LIDs) in the state since September, 2010. He explained the need to have all children in Lagos state immunised informed the choice of the town hall meetings.