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Reading Time: 4 minutes

Polio, or poliomyelitis, is a disabling and life-threatening disease caused by the poliovirus. The virus spreads from person to person and can infect a person’s spinal cord, causing paralysis; this is the state whereby a person cannot move parts of the body.

Polio has several symptoms but most people who get infected with poliovirus will not have any visible symptoms. About 1 out of 4 people or rather 25 out of 100, with poliovirus infection will have flu-like symptoms that include; sore throat, fever, tiredness, nausea, headache and stomach pain. A smaller proportion of people with poliovirus infection will develop other, more serious symptoms that affect the brain and spinal cord for example; Meningitis, an infection of the covering of the spinal cord or brain, occurs in about 1-5 out of 100 people with poliovirus infection depending on the virus type. Another infection is paralysis which is the weakness in the arms, legs or bot. It occurs in about 1 out of 200 people to 1 in 2000 people, depending on virus type. Paralysis is the most severe symptom associated with poliovirus because it can lead to permanent disability and death. Between 2 and 10 out of 100 people who have paralysis from polio virus infection die, because the virus affects the muscles that help them breathe.

Poliovirus is very contagious and spreads through person-to-person contact. It lives in an infected person’s throat and intestines for many weeks. It can contaminate food and water in unsanitary conditions. The polio virus only infects people. It enters the body through the mouth and spreads through; contact with the poop of an infected person, droplets from a sneeze or cough of an infected person. People who do not have symptoms can still pass the virus to others and make them sick.

There are two types of vaccines that can prevent polio: One is the Inactivated poliovirus vaccine(IPV), which is given as an injection in the leg or arm, depending on the patient’s age. Second, we have Oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV), which is used throughout much of the world. Polio vaccine protects children by preparing their bodies to fight the poliovirus. Almost all children who get all the recommended doses of the IPV will be protected from polio. It is also very important to practice good hand hygiene and wash hands often with soap and water. Note that alcohol-based hand sanitizers do not kill poliovirus.

Kiambu County is among the ten counties that are at high risk of polio. Other counties are; Nairobi, Kajiado, Machakos, Kitui, Tana River, Garissa, Lamu, Wajir and Mandera. Kiambu is also among the counties where the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with county governments and partners, successfully undertook round one of the polio campaign in August this year, which targeted three other counties; Kajiado, Garissa and Nairobi.

During the round one campaign, a total of 1,960,748 children under five years were vaccinated out of a target of 104.2 per cent coverage. Speaking to KNA during the ongoing campaign, Kiambu Sub-County Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Jane Nyakianda said the first campaign saw Kiambu achieve 95 per cent coverage after immunizing 21,934 under 5-years-old and covering41,212 households, which is 131 per cent against the targeted 32,301 households. She, however, acknowledges that the biggest challenge they are experiencing is the communities’ reluctance to vaccinate. 

In June, the government reported six cases of polio, which prompted the state to conduct an emergency polio vaccination in four counties. The ongoing polio outbreaks are squarely attributed to missed vaccination opportunities among children. This is the second and third planned vaccination rounds following the polio outbreak. Nyakianda said the exercise is being carried out in school, daycare centers, homes, and public areas, and children will see their fingers marked with indelible ink, and homes where vaccination has taken place will also be marked with colored chalk.

In the second campaign, the Ministry of Health confirmed that the transmission of the virus is still active in Garissa County, especially within the refugee camps, and the surveillance system had detected an additional two polio cases, bringing the total number to eight. The second round of the 5-day polio immunization campaign that is ongoing in Kiambu County started on Saturday, 7th October and ran until Wednesday 11th October, this year, with organizers targeting to reach at least 3.1 million children under five years countrywide.

In conclusion, this campaign has brought relief to many as it has been able to reach a good number of children who may not have had access to immunization against polio.


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