Mozambique confirms wild poliovirus outbreak

Detection of another case in Africa is ‘greatly concerning,’ says official.

Mozambique confirms wild poliovirus outbreak

Mozambique health authorities declared an outbreak of wild poliovirus on Wednesday, the first in the southern African country in three decades.

A case was found in a child in northeastern Tete province, who began experiencing paralysis in late March, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Just one case in Mozambique has been detected, the country’s first since 1992, the WHO said in a statement, marking the second imported case of wild poliovirus in southern Africa in 2022, following an outbreak in Malawi in February.

“The detection of another case of wild poliovirus in Africa is greatly concerning, even if it’s unsurprising given the recent outbreak in Malawi. However, it shows how dangerous this virus is and how quickly it can spread,” said WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti.

“We are supporting southern African governments to step up the polio fight including carrying out large-scale, effective vaccination campaigns to halt the virus and protect children from its damaging impact,” she added.

Genomic sequencing analysis indicates that the newly confirmed case is linked to a strain that had been circulating in Pakistan in 2019, similar to the one reported in Malawi earlier this year.

The WHO said investigations are underway in Mozambique to determine the extent of the risk posed by the case after preliminary analysis of samples collected from three contacts of the patient were all negative for wild poliovirus type 1.

Globally, wild poliovirus is endemic only in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The highly infectious disease largely affects children younger than 5 years of age.

Mozambique health authorities carried out two mass vaccination campaigns following the Malawi outbreak, in which 4.2 million children were vaccinated.

Africa was declared free of indigenous wild polio in August 2020 after eliminating all forms of wild polio from the region.

Recent cases on the continent do not affect Africa’s wild poliovirus-free certification since the virus strain is not indigenous, according to the WHO.

Hüseyin Demir