Home | News    Sunday 26 December 2004

UN warns polio could spread in Sudan as reported cases rise


NAIROBI, Dec 24, 2004 (IRIN) — The UN has warned that an outbreak of polio in Sudan could lead to a spread of the disease to other countries in the
region unless it is quickly contained.

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A child is administered with a polio vaccine

UN and government officials held an emergency meeting on Thursday in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, to discuss how to contain the disease amidst reports that 79 new cases had been recorded across the country.

"This is quite dramatic, considering there were no reported cases of polio last year," Ben Parker, communication officer for the UN Chidren’s Fund (UNICEF) in Sudan told IRIN on Friday.

"Sudan was well underway to being officially declared polio-free, but the country has now become the number two or three in the world in terms of
the number of polio cases reported this year," he added.

Thirty two of the reported cases were found in the state of Khartoum,
while Unity state and Western Upper Nile in the south, each reported 5

The disease spread across at least 10 nations in Africa this year after
vaccination in some states of northern Nigeria was suspended in mid-2003
amid concerns from local religious leaders about the safety of the oral
vaccine. Those concerns were later proved baseless and vaccination has

Initial testing indicated that both the genetic P-1 strain, related to
reported cases in Nigeria, and the unrelated P-3 strain were present in
Sudan, suggesting that the outbreak might have resulted from both imported
and locally transmitted cases.

"Give the insecurity in certain regions of Sudan, there has not been full
access to all areas during previous polio campaigns," Parker added. "It
seems that there have been a few pockets where the P-3 strain managed to

"You cannot drop your guard," he added, "it is a very persistent

The UN World Health Organization and UNICEF will conduct a polio
vaccination campaign across the whole of the country next month. Parker
said the campaign, in both government and rebel-held areas, would start on
10 January.

Polio - poliomyelitis - is a highly infectious and incurable disease
caused by a virus that affects mainly children under three years of age.
It invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in a matter of

The virus enters the body through the mouth and multiplies in the
intestines. Initial symptoms are fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting,
stiffness in the neck and pain in the limbs. One in 200 infections leads
to irreversible paralysis, which is usually in the legs.

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