At least, 27 states in Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have reported 395 cases of Circulating Mutant Poliovirus Type 2 (cMPV2).
The executive director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuaib, disclosed this in a statement issued on Thursday.
Mr Shuaib said cMPV2 outbreaks are caused by immunity gaps in children due to several reasons, including low routine immunisation coverage, and missing children during immunisation campaigns.
He said the suspension of several polio campaigns and other health programmes in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to increased transmission of the circulating mutant poliovirus.
“The suspension of several polio campaigns and other health programmes in 2020, as well as disruptions to routine immunisation because of the COVID-19 pandemic, created further immunity gaps which led to new and wider outbreaks, and further increased transmission of the circulating mutant poliovirus both globally and within Nigeria,” he said.
Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious viral disease, which mainly affects young children. It is transmitted by person-to-person spread mainly through the faecal-oral route or, through contaminated water or food and multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system and can cause paralysis.
cMPV2 is a form of polio that often occurs due to low immunisation rates within communities. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative said the virus can mutate and take on a form that can cause paralysis just like the wild poliovirus.
The viruses thrive in areas with poor sanitation, open defecation, and inadequate access to clean drinking water. Malnutrition occasioned by increasing poverty is also a predisposing factor in exposed children.
Recently, the World Health Organisation (WHO)< expressed concern that Nigeria is causing the virus to spread to other countries. It also expressed concerns about the poor quality of supplementary immunisation activities conducted to date and routine immunisation.
It would be recalled that Nigeria and the African region were certified Wild Polio Virus (WPV) free in 2020, following a verification and certification process by the African Regional Commission for the Certification of Poliomyelitis Eradication (ARCC) which spanned three years of no detection of WPV.
In September 2021, the NPHCDA announced an outbreak of vaccine-derived poliovirus across 12 states with 121 cases, a development that put the polio-free status under threat.
Mr Shuaib, however, said no cases of WPV have been reported anywhere in the country since the last case in 2016.
“Till date, there has been no case of WPV anywhere in the country,” he said.
Mr Shuaib said these non-wild polio viruses which originated because of normal changes in the reproduction of viruses in the environment are not as virulent as WPV and are also being reported in many other countries.
He said Nigeria in collaboration with donors and development partners has acquired new tools and resources to ensure the outbreaks are contained through very robust outbreak responses using the novel Oral Polio Vaccine (nOPV2) which has been shown to be effective in halting the spread of the cMPV2.
He said all 36 States and FCT have completed at least one nOPV2 Outbreak Response (OBR).
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He said: “Several other rounds of the OBR as well as other campaigns to improve the mucosal immunity of children aged o-5 years old using Injectable Polio Vaccine (IPV) have also been planned for this year.
“Efforts are also being ramped up to increase routine immunisation coverage beyond pre-COVID values.”
He assured Nigerians that the agency and partners will continue to conduct surveillance and vaccination campaigns to prevent and contain any possible importation of the WPV into the country.
“We use this opportunity to reiterate the importance of parents and caregivers bringing their children for routine immunisation against vaccine preventable diseases,” he said.