JOHANNESBURG – Health authorities in Mozambique declared a polio outbreak Wednesday after confirming that a child in the country’s northeastern 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. It's 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 experienced signs of paralysis in late March, according to a statement issued by the World Health Organization.
Sequencing indicates that the case in Mozambique is linked to a strain of polio spreading in Pakistan in 2019, similar to the case reported in Malawi earlier this year.
WHO declared Africa free of the wild polio virus in August 2020 even though numerous countries across the continent have reported outbreaks linked to the vaccine in recent years. There is no difference between the disease caused by the wild virus or the mutated virus from the vaccine.
“The detection of another case of wild poliovirus in Africa is greatly concerning, even if it’s unsurprising given the recent outbreak in Malawi. However, it shows how dangerous this virus is and how quickly it can spread,” said Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization's Africa director.
In response to the case in neighboring Malawi, Mozambique recently carried out two mass vaccination campaigns in which 4.2 million children were vaccinated against the disease, said WHO.
Disease surveillance is being strengthened in five countries: Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Vaccination campaigns in the coming weeks are planned to reach 23 million children aged five years and below.
Polio is highly infectious, spread mostly via water and largely affects children younger than five years. There is no cure for polio, and it can only be prevented by immunization. WHO and its partners began an effort to eradicate polio globally in 1988 and have missed numerous deadlines to wipe out the disease.