Reports by the Nigerian government have exposed the first two polio cases in the African country for the last two years.
The reports are about two children in the north-eastern Borno state who have been paralyzed by the disease.
According to the Polio Global Eradication Initiative, polio (poliomyelitis) is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It invades the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis in a matter of hours.
The group also divulged that “there is no cure, but there are safe and effective vaccines. The strategy to eradicate polio is therefore based on preventing infection by immunizing every child until transmission stops and the world is polio-free.”
In response to the new polio cases, the United Nations says that a mass vaccination campaign will get underway within 10 days to contain an outbreak of polio in northern Nigeria. This new development is seen as a major setback for Nigeria, which was on track to be declared polio-free in 2017.
The leader of Unicef’s polio team, Reza Hossaini, said all children in Nigeria’s north-eastern Borno state would be vaccinated immediately, and the campaign would then be broadened to include all five million vulnerable children in adjacent states.
Hossaini also said he was not surprised by the re-emergence of polio, saying that was why the UN waited a full three years before declaring a country free of the disease.
Borno state is at the center of the campaign by militant Islamist group Boko Haram against the Nigerian government, the violence and consequent lack of security in the area could explain why things like vaccinations and immunization could get relegated to the background.