Papua New Guinea (PNG) is gearing up for a nationwide vaccination campaign to protect citizens against polio 18 years after the disease was eradicated from the country.
The initiative, which is organised by the PNG government and the World Health Organization (WHO), is aimed at stopping the spread of the disease after 10 cases were confirmed in the country.
Last week, the PNG Ministry of Health confirmed the tenth case in Port Moresby, the capital of the impoverished southwest Pacific country.
The nine previous cases had been reported in remote areas, with the first being in June.
In response to the case found in Port Moresby, Pasco Kase, secretary of the PNG’s national department of health said the authorities would launch an emergency vaccination campaign.
“A nationwide polio campaign will commence on October 1,” he added.
“This is very concerning. Every new case of polio isn’t just a statistic. It represents a child who will be permanently paralysed,” Kase said.
Luo Dapeng, the WHO’s PNG representative, called the latest case “worrisome” as it was found in a densely-populated area.
“The WHO and its partners are working together to support the PNG government in finding out all the possible polio cases and to scale up the response in Port Moresby,” he said.
Polio is an infectious viral disease that is transmitted through faecal-oral contamination, severely affecting a person’s nervous system.
While there is no cure for polio and it can only be prevented through vaccination, coordinated efforts since 1994 have ensured a 99 percent drop in cases in the last 30 years.
According to the WHO, more than 80 percent of the global population – over 5.5 billion people – now live in polio-free regions.
PNG was declared polio-free by the WHO in 2000.