25 October 2017

South Africa: Vaccinate Your Child Against Polio

Health Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, has called on parents and caregivers to have every child under the age of five years vaccinated against polio.

"As long as a single child remains unvaccinated from this potentially fatal infectious disease, all other children attending school with him or her are at risk of contracting polio, hence we recommended that children under the age of five be immunised against this most common childhood diseases at the nearest health care facility," said Minister Motsoaledi.

Polio is caused by a very small germ called the polio virus and can lead to permanent lameness, deformity and even death.

However, due to routine immunizations in childhood, polio has not been seen in South Africa since 1989, but there have been outbreaks of polio in neighbouring countries.

Polio can easily be imported and spread in a polio-free country if all children have not been fully vaccinated.

Signs and symptoms of polio

The initial signs and symptoms of polio include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, constipation or less commonly diarrhoea, neck stiffness and pain in the limbs.

In most severe cases, the polio virus attacks the motor neurons of the brain stem, reducing breathing capacity and causing difficulty in swallowing and speaking.

Without adequate respiratory support, this form of polio, called bulbar polio, can result in death. Polio vaccination is part of the expanded programme of immunization. It is offered at birth, six weeks, ten weeks and 14 weeks.

"Immunisations for childhood vaccine preventable diseases are available free of charge at all times at public health facilities, hence we urge all parents and care givers to bring along the Road to Health Booklet when they take their children for immunisations," Minister Motsoaledi said.

Parents who don't have or lost the health booklet can talk to their healthcare providers, because it is issued free of charge.

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