National polio vaccinations under way in Chad

GOZ BEIDA, Chad —A three-day nationwide polio vaccination campaign began Oct. 30 throughout Chad, including in the east where according to the World Health Organization the rate of routine immunizations is among the weakest nationwide, IRIN news reported.

On Oct. 27 lab results confirmed six new polio cases, bringing the number of confirmed cases in Chad in 2009 to 30. Two regions are newly infected, Wadi Fira in the east and Batha in central Chad.

“Type 3 [polio virus] has broken out in regions with poor routine vaccinations,” said Mohamed Mohammedi, WHO’s polio technical expert covering eastern Chad.

Fewer than half the children living in the eastern districts of Wadi Fira, Ouaddai and Dar Sila have had routine polio immunizations, according to WHO’s weekly polio bulletin as of Oct. 25.

There are three known strains of the polio virus. Type 3 is not as widespread but is as dangerous as type 1, Mohammedi said.

Vaccination campaigns in Chad have helped to wipe out type 1 cases nationwide, with 18 in 2007 to none thus far in 2009. But the number of type 3 cases has increased 10 times in that period.

The most affected areas are the capital N’djamena, which has half the cases, and Chari Baguirmi in southwestern Chad with eight.

Polio vaccinations are to continue until Nov. 1. The next round is scheduled to begin Dec. 4.

Once established in the intestines, poliovirus can enter the bloodstream and invade the central nervous system – destroying nerves and leading to permanent paralysis in about one in 200 infections, according to the  Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

There is no known cure.