Polio case from vaccine confirmed in Mali, West Africa: WHO

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Sep 08, 2015 06:00 AM EDT

A child from Bamako, Mali has been paralyzed by a vaccine-derived polio virus. It is the country's first polio case in over four years according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The New York Times reports that the pediatric patient is a Guinean native who traveled to the capital city of Mali, Bamako to seek medical attention. The polio strain of the child closely matches the virus that was last seen in Guinea in 2014. The last polio case in Mali was in 2011. The outlet added that the mutated strain comes from a weakened virus strain used in oral polio vaccine.

"As soon as the new virus was identified, immediate actions were taken to initiate appropriate and targeted immunization activities that are in line with the recent Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) guidelines," said Dr. Lucien Manga, WHO representative for Mali, via a press release published by the international agency.

"The Government of Guinea and partners are informed and we have started evaluating all available resources to prepare for the campaign," said deputy WHO representative Dr. Mamoudou Harouna Djingarey. 

WHO said that the emergency response is to conduct at least three polio campaigns to stop the spread of the disease. All children under five years old must be vaccinated thrice during the duration of the polio campaigns. The first round of immunization will start in Mali and then in Guinea beginning this week.

According to Reuters the infection comes from the excrement of people vaccinated through oral polio drops. Those who are at high-risk of being infected contract the virus through sewage or dirty water.

"The risk of spread is considered to be high in both countries due to low rates of vaccination coverage in both Mali and Guinea," Cory Couillard, a spokesperson for WHO, told the outlet. "Both countries are taking coordinated emergency response measures to bring the outbreak to an end quickly."

According to the figures by WHO, Guinea's polio vaccination rates in 2014 decreased from 63 percent to 42 percent due to Ebola outbreak. According to Yahoo News, there have been cases of "wild polio" in several African countries including Nigeria and Madagascar.

Polio is a contagious viral illness that can lead to breathing difficulties, paralysis and death. Some symptoms of polio according to Mayo Clinic include: sore throat, vomiting, fever, headache, meningitis, neck and back pain, arms and legs stiffness, and muscle weakness. There is no cure, but there are preventive vaccines that can immunize a person from getting the disease.

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