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 30/07/2010 from Oliver Rosenbauer, WHO/HQ:

Important step to achieving key 'milestone' of new Strategic Plan

An outbreak of polio which had affected the Horn of Africa has been successfully stopped, as no new cases due to wild poliovirus (WPV) have been reported in 12 months. The outbreak began in 2008, following the re-appearance of wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) in the border area of southern Sudan and Ethiopia. In early 2009, the outbreak then spread to nearby Kenya and Uganda. In total, 101 cases occurred in these four countries between 2 March 2008 and 30 July 2009.

A combination of a series of multi-country immunization campaigns, scale-up of technical support, and strong political engagement by the affected countries proved to be the backbone behind the successful outbreak response.  Additionally, new approaches were implemented, including the new Short Interval Additional Dose (SIAD) strategy - first successfully applied in Somalia in 2007 - which sees children being immunized at short intervals with monovalent oral polio vaccine to more rapidly raise population immunity levels against specific serotypes.

The stopping of the outbreak in the Horn of Africa further underscores that the full and rapid implementation of international outbreak response guidelines works. Additionally, the new Global Polio Eradication Initiative Strategic Plan 2010-2012, recently adopted by the World Health Assembly and officially launched at an event in Geneva cohosted by World Health Organization Director-General Dr Margaret Chan and UNICEF Executive Director Tony Lake, outlines new measures to limit further international spread of polio and more rapidly stop new outbreaks.

The first milestone of the new Strategic Plan calls for the cessation of all active polio outbreaks which began in 2009, by mid-2010. With the Horn of Africa polio-free, all eyes will now be on the situation in west Africa. No new cases have been reported from that region since 28 April 2010 ( Mauritania), though it is too early to say if residual transmission is continuing. Outbreak response across west Africa is ongoing. Validation of the milestones will be implemented at the end of 2010.

More information on the Global Polio Eradication Initiative:

Last Updated on Thursday, 05 August 2010 10:34

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