Angola: WHO Supports Angola's Government Efforts to End Polio Outbreak

The World Health Organization (WHO) and partners are supporting the efforts of the Angolan Government to end a polio outbreak that started in May this year.

In response to the outbreak that has already affected 49 children as of date, the government has vaccinated 4.5 million children in targeted districts in 15 of the 18 provinces of the country.

While there is no cure for polio, the disease can be prevented through administration of a simple and effective vaccine. That is why efforts are underway across the country to rapidly boost immunity levels in children, and protect them from polio paralysis.

"The polio vaccination campaign that the Angolan government is leading is critical in disrupting the polio outbreak. All of us must work together to sensitize our families and communities to the need for all children to be vaccinated. We need to continue engaging to develop a robust routine disease surveillance and vaccination system to prevent, detect and rapidly respond to any polio cases," said Dr Hernando Agudelo, WHO Representative in Angola.

"Given the challenges that Angola faces in ensuring the immunization of all children, we need to remain resilient in our vaccination and epidemiological surveillance efforts so that no child is left behind and at risk of paralysis," added Dr Agudelo.

The response to the polio outbreak requires active disease surveillance and an immense multisector collaboration. In this journey, WHO, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Rotary International, and strategic partners, have been supporting the Government of Angola in strategic actions to control and block the transmission of the poliovirus.

Acute flaccid paralysis is a clinical symptom of poliomyelitis. A viral disease, that is transmitted from person to person, mainly through a faecal-oral route or, less frequently, through contaminated water or food, and multiplies inside the intestines.

Due to the efforts of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative that was launched in 1988, two of the three types of wild poliovirus have been globally eradicated. The last case of wild poliovirus in the WHO African Region was detected in Nigeria's Borno State in 2016. The region is expecting to be certified free of all three types of wild polio in 2020.

The region, however, is facing outbreaks of a rare circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus in 13 African countries, including Angola.

Vaccine-derived polioviruses are rare, but these viruses are sometimes found in severely underimmunized populations living in areas with inadequate sanitation and low levels of polio inmunization. When children are immunized with the oral polio vaccine, the attenuated virus replicates in their intestines for a short time to build up the needed antibodies and is then excreted in the faeces. If polio immunization coverage remains low in a community and sanitation remains inadequate, the excreted viruses will be transmitted to susceptible populations, leading to genetic changes and emergence of vaccine-derived polioviruses.

Countries experiencing outbreaks of vaccine-derived poliovirus in Africa are: Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria, Togo and Zambia. These countries face many challenges to preventing the rare strains from circulating, including poor routine vaccination coverage, vaccine refusal, difficult access to health services. These countries need therefore to carry out good quality vaccination campaigns to ensure the immunization of all children

The Government of Angola is continuing to implement outbreak response, following internationally-agreed guidelines, and at the same time further strengthening surveillance activities to rapidly detect any further cases. To successfully implement the outbreak response required the engagement of government authorities at all levels, civil society and the general population, to ensure that all children under the age of five are vaccinated against polio.

During polio vaccination campaign in Lunda Norte-Angola

Media contact:

Olívio Gambo

Communications Officer

WHO Angola Country Office

gamboo [at] who.int

+244 923 61 48 57

AbdelHalim Abdallah

Polio Communications Officer

WHO Regional Office for Africa

habdallah [at] who.int

Whatsapp: +201 123 00 0665

The World Health Organization contributes to a better future for people everywhere. Good health lays the foundation for vibrant and productive communities, stronger economies, safer nations and a better world. As the lead health authority within the United Nations system, our work touches people's lives around the world every day. In Africa, WHO serves 47 Member States and works with development partners to improve the health and well-being of all people living here. The WHO Regional Office for Africa is located in Brazzaville, Congo. Learn more at www.afro.who.int and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

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