The World Health Organization (WHO) reported on Wednesday in Mozambique, which discovered the first case of wild polio infection (polio) in three decades after an outbreak in neighboring Malawi in February.
The case was diagnosed in a child in the northeastern province of Tete, the report said.
“The discovery of another case of wild polio in Africa is a matter of great concern, even if it is not surprising given the recent outbreak in Malawi,” said WHO Head of Africa Matidis Moeti.
Polio – a medical term for polio – is an acute infectious and contagious viral disease that affects the spinal cord and causes irreversible paralysis in children.
Wild polio viruses are viruses that occur naturally in society and are commonly spread when an infected person’s feces contaminate water or food.
Africa was declared free of indigenous wild polio in August 2020 after no cases of polio on the continent for the previous four years.
However, unvaccinated people are still at risk when the virus enters their country from one of the few places in the world where the disease still circulates.
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The WHO said laboratory tests showed that the case in Mozambique was related to a strain circulating in Pakistan and led to a case reported in Malawi.
The outbreak in Malawi prompted South African countries to start blitz vaccination.
Malawi and its four closest neighbors – Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe – plan to immunize 23 million children aged five and under. Mozambique alone hopes to vaccinate 4.2 million young people, the WHO said.
“As long as one child remains infected with polio, children in all countries are at risk of contracting the disease,” the United Nations said in a statement on its website.
“The polio virus can be easily imported into a polio-free country and can spread quickly among the non-immunized population.”