By Adama Tine
The Minister of Health Dr. Ahmadou Lamin Samateh on Tuesday declared at a press briefing held at the ministry in Banjul on an outbreak of Poliovirus Type 2 disease in the country.
“In May 2021, with support from the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners, the Gambia initiated environmental surveillance to supplement the traditional Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) polio surveillance system. Presently, environmental samples are collected from three sites and sent to the regional polio laboratory in Dakar for analysis,” Dr Samateh explained.
He noted that no AFP sample from The Gambia has tested positive for polio, however, he said two environmental samples collected from sewage sites, (one from Banjul and the other from Kotu) have tested positive for poliovirus type 2. “This has created a polio outbreak situation in the country since a single positive poliovirus case is considered an outbreak under the 2005 International Health Regulations, thereby requiring an urgent response to breaking transmission,” he stated.
He added that sequencing results showed that the viruses detected in The Gambia are genetically linked to other viruses detected in Guinea, Senegal and Nigeria which indicated evidence of importation. He further said that the outbreak is an evidence of poliovirus circulation within the population but does not mean a detection of polio paralysis in the population.
According to minister Samateh, his ministry will continue working with all relevant United Nations agencies and other development partners in confronting the outbreak. “While we plan for vaccination response shortly, we have enhanced our surveillance system to increase its sensitivity and quality in tracking polio cases in circulation. We are preparing for at least two massive supplementary polio vaccination rounds targeting 382,908 children 0-59 months in The Gambia,” Samateh disclosed
The Gambia, he went on, was certified polio free in 2004 after a last case was detected in 1986. The country over the years has maintained high polio vaccination coverage to meet the global polio eradication goal. Additionally, he said, 27 high quality supplementary immunization activities were also conducted from 1997 to 2014 to boost immunity against polio.
Minister Samateh implored on all parents to cooperate with vaccinators during the vaccination campaigns, saying The Gambia has the best immunization programs in the subregion. He also urged the public to maintain proper hygiene.