Monday,27 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1432, (28 February - 6 March 2019)
Monday,27 May, 2019
Issue 1432, (28 February - 6 March 2019)

Ahram Weekly


National campaigns continue to keep Egypt free from the disease, reports Mariam Amr



The Ministry of Health this week carried out a four-day national polio immunisation campaign. The campaign, which took off on Sunday, aimed to vaccinate 16.5 million children. Medical teams equipped with the vaccine visited mosques, churches, clubs, markets, train stations and public parks to provide free vaccinations to all children.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) announced that Egypt was polio-free in 2006 after the last case was recorded in 2004. But from time to time it is still important to raise awareness about the disease because it is widespread in other countries and the risk of return still exists.

“Poliomyelitis [polio] is a serious viral infection and the virus is still present in sanitation because it lives in faeces, especially in unhealthy environments,” Sherif Hetta, a preventive medicine and public health consultant, told Al-Ahram Weekly.

Hetta said concerns that Egypt may have a problem in the future with a new poliomyelitis case are a real threat, and that the best way to manage the situation is by giving regular vaccinations.

Repeated immunisation through various campaigns ensures that all children living in Egypt are protected from poliovirus. It also ensures that no child under five would miss a vaccination dose.

Hetta said infection can occur upon contact with an unclean environment, as well as in cases of travelling outside Egypt to other infected countries.

He noted that the aim of these campaigns was to raise awareness, administer vaccinations and immediately report any suspected case that reflects the symptoms of the disease such as muscle weakness and an inability to move.

The effort to keep Egypt polio-free is a continuous process. Last year, the Health Ministry vaccinated 16.5 million Egyptian and non-Egyptian children aged one to five at a cost of LE84 million to keep Egypt free from poliomyelitis.

In addition, the Health Ministry introduced the first polio vaccine by injection, the Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV). According to the UNICEF website, the fourth-month dose of Oral Polio Vaccine will be accompanied by an additional injection of the same vaccine. All other doses will remain oral. According to UNICEF, based on the recommendations of WHO and UNICEF, countries in areas that are near to completely eradicating polio need to introduce IPV to increase the immunity of children against poliovirus.

Polio-free zones, according to WHO, include Europe, the Americas, the Western Pacific, Egypt and, more recently, South-East Asia. However, the disease remains a major problem in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, and there is a risk in other parts of Africa and some Middle Eastern countries.

WHO recommends that people visiting countries with poliomyelitis receive polio vaccines before travelling. Some countries with a risk of infection will require proof of vaccination before individuals can travel elsewhere.

Polio infected millions of children in Egypt and the rest of the world until 1955 when the first vaccine against poliovirus was discovered.

In 1961 a new oral vaccine was introduced and adapted by countries around the world.

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