SATURDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2016

Polio increases four-fold in Nigeria

The World Health Organization recently announced that Nigeria has seen a four-fold increase in polio cases.

Forty-three cases have been reported in Nigeria this year, in comparison with a total of 11 for all of last year. In addition, it appears that the virus has spread to neighboring countries, according to the BBC.

Thomas Moran,, an official with the World Health Organization, said that curbing the polio virus in Nigeria would be a key in eradicating the crippling disease in Africa altogether. Moran said that the virus has appeared in Niger, Mali and Ivory Coast.

Nigeria is currently one of only four countries where polio is considered endemic. The others are Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.

In 2003, northern Nigeria’s Muslim leaders of the Kano region may have set back the effort to eliminate the illness when they opposed vaccinations, claiming they were a Western plot to cause infertility. The opposition has since been dropped.

"The success of polio eradication in Africa rests on Nigeria interrupting the virus," Moran said, the BBC reports.

Moran said that the Nigerian government has shown strong leadership in fighting the disease and that the WHO has been allowed to implement large-scale vaccination programs.

"The immunity profile of Nigerian children is far better [now], which limits the risk of international spread of the virus," Moran said, according to the BBC.

Moran stressed that the number of infected children actually remains quite low, despite the increase.

"You can call it a four-fold increase but it is still very low transmission in a country as large as Nigeria with almost 50m children under five," Moran said, the BBC reports.