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Sierra Leone at risk of polio importation

- warns Dr. Dennis Marke

June 4, 2015 By Victoria Saffa

Programme Manager at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Dennis Marke, says Sierra Leone risk a polio importation, and that many children could be affected if nothing was done about the risk.

He was speaking at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation conference hall at Youyi building in Freetown at the start of a polio inoculation exercise.

He said the ministry, with support from UN agencies, will embark on the reduction in morbidity and mortality of women and children through increased coverage of various life-saving interventions, adding that the exercise was the second of third rounds of a campaign planned for 2015 as part of the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) revitalization plans.

He said the last measles campaign in 2012 reached 91 percent of children of all ages, noting that since then many children have not been vaccinated through routine services.

“Measles outbreak mostly among children under the age of five has been reported in Freetown and several districts have recent cases. Without measles campaign, this outbreak will spread to become a large nationwide measles outbreak that likely will cause death and disability in many children,” he said.

Dr. Marke further maintained that polio treatment was important and that the last national immunization was conducted in 2013, adding that polio infection was mostly invisible because only 0.5 percent of children infected with polio develop paralysis.

The Ebola virus disease outbreak, he noted, has caused decrease in vaccination as many children under 24 months were likely to have missed one or more routine vaccine doses, and that cases and outbreaks of pertussis, diphtheria, tetanus, tuberculosis, pneumonia, diarrhea and meningitis could result if the immunity gap was not filled.

He said fixed and temporary outreach teams will be deployed for six days, with a team being stationed at Peripheral Health Units. “In light of the decline in Ebola cases, efforts should be focused on restoring and intensifying immunization activities as a matter of urgency,” he urged.

Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) specialist at UNICEF, Victor Sule, said strategies were already underway for the exercise, noting that PHUs will take stock of children that have missed out on previous immunization exercises.

He said the planning and human resource were adequate to ensure a successful campaign, by achieving high coverage, while recommended infection prevention and control precautions will be effectively implemented at all times.

He said World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF staff and Ministry of Health officials will man the command center. During implementation, daily review meetings will be held at the end of each day to discuss findings and address issues that may arise, he added.

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