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Vaccine derived polio virus detected in Botswana

Dr Christopher Nyanga

The Ministry of Health has informed members of the public that while conducting a routine environmental surveillance, it detected a circulating vaccine derived polio virus type 2 in one sewage site in Gaborone.

A vaccine derived polio virus is a strain that can be excreted post vaccination with a weakened live polio virus contained in the oral polio vaccine.

Speaking to The Voice yesterday, the Ministry of Health Chief Public Relations Officer, Dr Christopher Nyanga advised the public not to panic because there was no actual case of polio as no one was found with the virus but it was found only in human waste.

“The investigations are continuing but the tricky part is that we don’t know whether the person was a visitor in transit and used the toilet or what? The current virus, which was detected from a sample at a sewage site, has properties that are similar to those found in Central Africa, making it an imported virus too. The person was not injected with the vaccine that we use in Botswana. Botswana last recorded a case of polio 18 years ago (in 2004), which was also imported from other countries,”said Dr Nyanga.

According to Dr Nyanga, the Ministry has engaged strategic partners like the WHO, UNICEF and others, for technical and other necessary support.

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He said as part of the required investigation, the National Rapid Response Teams (NRRT) have been deployed to some of the areas that feed the concerned sewage tank, namely; Old Naledi, Gaborone West,Tsholofelo East, Gabane, Metsimotlhabe, Tlokweng, Block 6, Kumakwane and Mogoditshane to test children under five years of age for the poliovirus.

‘The Ministry requests members of the public not to panic but to remain vigilant and ensure that their children below the age of five years, are vaccinated against polio. They should further report any case of a child presenting with sudden onset of paralysis and should keep their environment, food and water clean all the time. Initial symptoms of polio include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness of the neck and pain in the limbs. In a small proportion of cases, the disease causes paralysis, which is often permanent,’ Dr Nyanga explained.

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