Nigeria's polio outbreak9th October 2007
A weakened form of the polio virus has infected and partially paralysed 69 children in Nigeria.
The children caught the disease in its weakened live form when it was transmitted inadvertently from vaccinated children to those in another part of the country.
The outbreak had occurred in areas where there was not enough oral polio vaccine, or where people had refused to be immunised against the disease, health officials said.
Festus Adu, director of the WHO's polio laboratory in Ibadan, Nigeria, said the best way to overcome the outbreak of vaccine-related polio virus was to increase immunisation coverage, making sure that all children received the vaccine.
The Ibadan laboratory analyses polio samples before sending them for further tests at the Centers for Disease Control in the United States.
Adu, who is also a member of the Nigerian government's polio eradication committee's expert review, said researchers were preparing vaccine alternatives to combat the outbreak.
The outbreak, which started last year, had had a negative effect on the public image of the immunisation campaign, however, with many Nigerians blaming the vaccination programme.
The disease had now been found in 18 of Nigeria's 36 states, but was only reported recently in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Review.
Adu called for an aggressive campaign to provide full nationwide coverage with the polyvalent polio vaccine, which protects against all three strains of poliovirus.
But he said monovalent vaccines should be used where the virus was still circulating.
Nigeria has the largest number of polio cases, accounting for 61% of global polio cases and 95% of cases in Africa, according to the disease surveillance unit of the WHO.
Nigerian health officials declined to comment on whether the government was stepping up immunisation programmes in response to the problem.
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