Over the past eight months, Nigeria has not recorded any case of polio. If this continues, in a few months, the country will attain status of “non endemic country”. Chairman, Polio Plus Committee, Dr. Tunji Funsho, says its the first time Nigeria has attained such feat.
In a chat with Chioma Obinna, Funsho who oversees polio activities in Nigeria in partnership with the Federal government and partners on behalf of Rotary International, says it is a well deserved feat despite the challenges of a few years ago. Excerpts:
Throughout last year ,we had only six cases of polio until July. The previous year we had 56 cases. We have seen a gradual decrease to a point we are zero level for eight months. We are hoping that in another four months, the World Health Organisation, WHO, will declare Nigeria a non endemic country.
Polio free is different from being non endemic. These are very technical terms and they have health connotations. When you say a country is non endemic, it means that it has not seen that disease for 12 months. When you say the country is polio free it means that the country has no fear of having polio as long as it continues routine immunisation and that is the prerogative of the World Health organisation, WHO.
India, for instance was certified polio free last year in February having not seen any case of polio at all for the preceeding three years. What we are looking forward to is that by July this year if there is no more case, we will become a non endemic country but not polio free. There is a robust of surveillance system that will pick up any case of paralysis; it does not matter whether it is polio or not. And there are protocols to ensure that those kinds of children are brought to attention, examine them and their stools are taken to ensure that it is not polio before you can say it is not true.
A polio free status can only come unto a country not a state. A polio free status can only be conferred by WHO if after three years that country sees no more case of polio in the presence of robust surveillance system on polio, I know Lagos has not seen any case of polio for almost four years they do not fall under the category that you can say we are polio free.