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Mozambique declares polio outbreak linked to Pakistan
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JOHANNESBURG – Health authorities in Mozambique declared a polio outbreak on Wednesday after confirming that a child in the country’s northeast Tete province had been paralyzed by the disease.

The case in Mozambique is the second imported case of polio in southern Africa this year, following a case discovered in Malawi in mid-February. This is the first case of wild polio in Mozambique since 1992, although cases linked to a mutated virus from the oral vaccine were detected in 2019.

The latest case in Mozambique was found in a child who showed signs of paralysis in late March, according to a statement released by the World Health Organization.

Sequencing indicates that the case in Mozambique is linked to a strain of polio that spread to Pakistan in 2019, similar to the case reported in Malawi earlier this year.

The WHO declared Africa free of the wild polio virus in August 2020, although many countries across the continent have reported vaccine-related outbreaks in recent years. There is no difference between the disease caused by the wild virus or the mutated vaccine virus.

“The detection of another case of wild poliovirus in Africa is very worrying, although not surprising given the recent outbreak in Malawi. However, it shows how dangerous this virus is and how quickly it can spread,” said Matshidiso Moeti, Africa director of the World Health Organization.

In response to the case in neighboring Malawi, Mozambique recently conducted two mass vaccination campaigns in which 4.2 million children were vaccinated against the disease, WHO said.

Disease surveillance is strengthened in five countries: Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Vaccination campaigns in the coming weeks are expected to reach 23 million children aged five and under.

Poliomyelitis is highly contagious, spread mainly through water, and largely affects children under five. Poliomyelitis is incurable and only vaccination can prevent it. WHO and its partners began an effort to eradicate poliomyelitis worldwide in 1988 and missed many deadlines to eradicate the disease.

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