Emergency declared in Papua New Guinea over Polio outbreak

Jun 28, 2018 10:57 IST
Polio outbreak in Papua New Guinea

A public health emergency has been declared in three Papua New Guinea (PNG) provinces as the country responds to its first polio outbreak in 18 years when it was declared free of the disease.

As per the Health Ministry report, at least three provinces Morobe, Madang and the Eastern Highlands confirmed the outbreak of the potentially deadly virus.

As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), the virus was detected in a six-year-old boy in April this year. Later, it was found that the same virus stain has been identified in other healthy children in the same locality and community. That declared an official outbreak.

According to the WHO, Polio has no cure and can lead to irreversible paralysis. Polio mainly affects children who are under five. It can only be prevented by giving a multiple vaccine doses to children.

The public health emergency order will remain in place for at least 12 months, as per the Minister for Health Puka Temu.

Papua New Guinea was certified as polio-free in 2000 along with the rest of the WHO Western Pacific Region as it has not had a case of wild poliovirus since 1996.

What’s next?

To stop the outbreak of the highly contagious disease immediately, the government needs to strengthen the surveillance systems to detect it in early stage and a large-scale immunisation campaigns.

The WHO has come up with some experts and $500,000, while the PNG government had set aside $2 million for the response.

Polio Key facts

• Poliomyelitis (Polio) mainly affects children under five years of age.

• Every one in 200 infections leads to permanent paralysis.

• Among those paralysed, 5% to 10% die when their breathing muscles become immobilized.

• Cases die to wild poliovirus have decreased by over 99% since 1988, from an estimated 350 000 cases then, to 22 reported cases in 2017. As a result of the global effort to eradicate the disease, more than 16 million people have been saved from paralysis.

• As long as a single child remains infected, children in all countries are at risk of contracting polio. Failure to eradicate polio from these last remaining strongholds could result in as many as 200 000 new cases every year, within 10 years, all over the world.

• In most countries, the global effort has expanded capacities to tackle other infectious diseases by building effective surveillance and immunization systems.


Source: WHO

Other cases of Polio

As per the WHO, in 2017, there were about 20 cases of polio globally. All these cases occurred in only two countries: Pakistan and Afghanistan.

However, Polio remains an endemic in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria.

Other emergency situations in Papua New Guinea

On June 16, 2018, Papua New Guinea had declared a nine-month state of emergency, suspended a provincial government and is sent armed forces to restore normalcy after a violent riot which witnessed a rampage of burning and looting.

Another state of emergency declared on March 2, 2018 across its rugged and remote highlands, after a deadly earthquake crushed provincial towns and buried hamlets under landslides.



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