|Six cases of polio in Afghanistan in 1999, a country
of 25 million people, is a rate of .024 per 100,000 population.|
|This is a rate one fifth of the rate of paralytic
polio which would be caused by the mass innoculation of the Afghan population.|
25 August 1999
Polio in Afghanistan
An outbreak of
poliomyelitis has been reported from Kunduz province in Northern Afghanistan. Since early
May, a total of 26 cases of children with paralysis have been reported as of today, of
which 6 cases have already been confirmed as poliomyelitis through laboratory analysis.
Fifteen of the 26 cases were reported from Kunduz town itself, with 11 cases from the
districts surrounding Kunduz.
The outbreak was identified
only because special disease reporting for suspected polio cases, including the capacity
for laboratory confirmation*, was established in May 1999 in the North as part of the
nation-wide initiative to eradicate polio.
Since all immunization
activities in Northern Afghanistan had nearly ceased in mid-1997 and are just now being
re-established, the outbreak of poliomyelitis is not unexpected. To determine the
full extent of the outbreak, all health facilities and NGOs providing health care in the
North have been alerted to the outbreak and requested to report all suspected cases to the
Ministry of Public Health (MoPH). A large-scale house-to-house immunization
campaign, targeting more than 130,000 children aged < 5 years has been launched this
week in the outbreak area as a collaborative effort between MoPH, WHO, UNICEF and NGOs.
Poliomyelitis is endemic in
Afghanistan and the best way to prevent the disease is to immunize children with at least
3 doses of polio vaccine during their first year of life. The global strategy to eradicate
polio includes supplementary country-wide campaigns called National Immunization Days
(NIDs) when 2 drops of oral polio vaccine are given to all children under age 5 years, in
2 consecutive months. Country-wide NIDs were held in Afghanistan in May and June 1999 and
are scheduled again for October and November. Unfortunately the outbreak in Kunduz started
before the May NIDs.
For more information, visit the web site on the global eradication of poliomyelitis.
* Click here
for a description of the WHO Global Laboratory Network established to provide virological
laboratory support to all countries with endemic poliomyelitis.