No polio outbreak in SA

October 25, 2011

by Zinhle Mapumulo (The New Age)

The Department of Health has assured the public that there is
no need for panic after a 10-month-old baby with a very rare and severe congenital immune system condition developed polio after being given an oral polio vaccination.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) confirmed at the weekend that the baby, from Gauteng, had developed the rare complication which has occurred in only 23 people across the world since the introduction of the oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV) in the previous century.

Fidel Hadebe, national Department of Health spokesperson, said: “The NICD became aware of the case recently through their monitoring programme.”

He assured the public that there was no need to panic because, “South Africa remains free of polio.

“In extremely rare cases, like the present one, a polio-like picture arises in individuals and especially in babies who have been vaccinated with OPV and are not able to produce antibodies that effectively protect against infections. These babies have a rare genetic defect, agammaglobulinaemia,” he said.

Agammaglobulinaemia is an inherited disorder in which there are very low levels of protective immune proteins called immunoglobulins. Children who have X-linked agammaglobulinaemia may develop polio if they are given oral live polio vaccine.

Hadebe said: “Evidence has shown that breast milk has the ability to neutralise the polio virus. It is therefore recommended that breast milk be fed to infants with agammaglobulinaemia.”

Polio is a highly infectious, crippling disease caused by a virus. It can strike at any age but affects mainly children under three.

There is no cure for polio paralysis but there is supportive treatment.

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