By Landing Ceesay
The Minister for Health has declared the Polio type 2 outbreak in The Gambia as a national Public Health Emergency.
Dr Ahmadou Lamin Samateh made the official declaration on Wednesday as per the WHO recommendations, Polio outbreak response Standard Operating Procedures, and the International Health Regulations 2005, following confirmation that the Gambia registered two positive cases of polio type 2.
The two environmental samples, which tested positive, were collected from the capital, Banjul and Kotu, he added.
“In May 2021, with support from the World Health Organization and other partners, The Gambia initiated environmental surveillance to supplement the traditional (Acute Flaccid Paralysis – AFP) polio surveillance system. Presently, environmental samples are collected from three sites. Samples collected from the AFP cases and the environment are sent to the regional polio laboratory in Dakar for analysis.
“So far, no AFP sample from The Gambia has tested positive for polio. However, two environmental samples collected from sewage sites, one from Banjul and the other from Kotu, have tested positive for poliovirus type 2. This has created a polio outbreak situation in the country since a single positive poliovirus case is considered an outbreak under the 2005 International Health Regulations, thereby requiring an urgent response to breaking transmission,” Dr Samateh revealed.
The Health Minister further stated that many other countries are already affected by this type of virus in the sub region. He said sequencing results showed that the viruses detected in The Gambia are genetically linked to other viruses detected in the sub region such as in Guinea, Senegal, and Nigeria.
“Thus, evidence of importation. It is important to note that this outbreak is evidence of poliovirus circulation within the population but does not mean detection of polio paralysis in the population. In line with WHO recommendations, Polio outbreak response Standard Operating Procedures, and the International Health Regulations 2005, I officially declare this outbreak a national Public Health Emergency,” he said.
Dr Samateh assured that his Ministry would continue working with all relevant UN agencies and other development partners in confronting the outbreak, while they plan for vaccination response shortly.
He informed that they have enhanced their surveillance system to increase its sensitivity and quality in tracking polio cases in circulation.
“We are preparing for at least two massive supplementary polio vaccination rounds targeting 382, 908 children 0-59 months in each round. Our goal is to vaccinate all children 0-59 months in The Gambia. We implore all parents to cooperate with our vaccinators during the vaccination campaigns to enable us to end this outbreak soonest. The Gambia has one of the best immunization programmes in the sub region, thanks to caregivers for being receptive to the vaccination. Together, we have been able to defeat many vaccine-preventable diseases,” Health Minister Dr Ahmadou Lamin Samateh told Journalists at the Ministry of Health headquarters in Banjul on Wednesday.
Polio, or poliomyelitis, is a disabling and life-threatening disease caused by the poliovirus, which spreads from person to person and can infect a person’s spinal cord, causing paralysis, according to research.