Polio Reemerges in Nigeria, After Two Years with No Cases


Kano, Nigeria – Two children have been diagnosed with the polio virus in Nigeria, after two years without any cases. Confirmation of the wild poliovirus is a major setback for the country’s efforts to eradicate the disease that leaves children severely paralyzed.

The two cases were detected in Borno state, in the northeast corner of Nigeria which borders Chad, Niger, and Cameroon where the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram
is active. Authorities say the tenuous security situation has made it difficult to access many parts of the region with immunization services, denying as many as a half-million children.

Blood samples from the infected children were sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) where they were analyzed and confirmed. As an immediate priority, Nigerian health authorities say they are collaborating with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative to respond urgently and prevent more children from being paralyzed.

These steps include conducting large-scale immunization campaigns and strengthening surveillance systems that help catch the virus early.

The mass vaccination campaign will target more than five million children in Borno and the neighboring countries of the Lake Chad basin, according to WHO.

The disappointment was palpable throughout Nigeria and among the array of NGOs working in the north to eradicate the virus when the news confirming the cases broke.

The country had made significant strides against the debilitating childhood disease. It had gone two years without a case of wild polio virus and was poised to be declared polio-free in 2017. 

Unlike Ebola which requires a 42-day period, for the WHO to declare a country free of polio it has to go three years without a new case. Nigeria was less than six months away from that historic milestone.  

Polio is a highly infectious viral disease that usually affects children and vaccinations are the only weapons against it. The virus is spread by poor sanitation and contaminated water. It mainly affects children under five years old.

Report by Wynfred Russell, [email protected]