WHO to vaccinate 72 million African children against polio

The World Health Organization has partnered with the United Nations, private donors and several governments to launch a campaign to vaccinate 72 million children in Africa against polio.

The campaign will cover 15 African countries including Benin, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Angola, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Liberia, Mauritania, Senegal and Sudan, reports.

Polio is a viral disease that spreads from person to person through food and water contaminated by fecal matter. Children who are most susceptible to the disease are under five years old. Ninety-percent of people experience mild or no symptoms to the disease at all. One out of 200 people infected may become stricken with paralysis, typically in the legs. The virus then continues to replicate and attack the body’s nervous system, leading to acute flaccid paralysis, reports. Five to 10 percent of those paralyzed will die from paralyzed breathing muscles.

The vaccination campaign will use 290,000 health workers to give out vaccines door-to-door to high-risk cases. United Nations agencies, private charitable donors and governments have contributed $42.6 million in funding for the campaign, while Ted Turner recently donated $80 million to future efforts of polio eradication in Nigeria.

Polio is endemic in Nigeria, a country that has had great success in attacking polio, lowering the infection rate by 98 percent. The campaign began this week in Cote d’Ivorie, to be followed shortly by campaigns in Chad, Angola, Sudan and the other countries.