The WHO Country representative ,Dr Wondi Alemu said Polio infrastructure has been expanded to support broader disease surveillance strengthening ,outbreak response and basic healthcare services ,including immunization .
While stating that with the imminent eradication of polio globally, plans are underway to determine how best to transition polio assets, including health workers to retain their knowledge.
“We must carefully consider how we transition many of the polio workers and the polio infrastructure to help with managing other health needs,”
He noted that funding and key partnership is critical for effective result .
According to the World health Organisation,from January 1st to March 4th 2018, a total of 1,121 suspected cases of Lassa fever have been reported in 18 states across the country in (Edo, Ondo, Bauchi, Nasarawa, Ebonyi, Anambra, Benue, Kogi, Imo, Plateau, Lagos, Taraba, Delta, Osun, Rivers, FCT, Gombe and Ekiti).
“353 are confirmed positive, 8 are probable, 723 are negative and 37 are awaiting laboratory results. Since the onset of the 2018 outbreak, there have been 110 deaths: 78 in positive-confirmed cases, 8 in probable cases and 24 in negative cases”
Dr Fiona Braka, EPI Team Leader for WHO Nigeria, noted that besides helping with vaccinations, polio workers performed other functions critical to containing outbreaks such as Lassa fever, Yellow Fever, Cholera and Meningitis. “Polio personnel are assisting with case identification, reporting, detailed investigation and contact tracing and community sensitization in the Lassa fever response,”
“Other activities include data collation, analysis, reporting and archiving using mobile phones fashioned after the real-time tracking and reporting by polio vaccination teams. These activities fit into the polio essential functions of surveillance, outbreak response and containment that vaccine-preventable disease surveillance and laboratory networks rely on to save millions of lives threatened by diseases such as yellow fever and meningitis”
The WHO state coordinator in Edo state ,Mrs Faith Ireye disclosed that
when she received the confirmation of the first case of Lassa fever and request by the Nigeria Center for Disease Control to coordinate the contact tracing pillar of the outbreak, she was fully ready based on her previous experience .
“Nothing prepared me for the tasks ahead than polio eradication activities, such as surveillance, supplemental and routine immunization,who has worked with the Polio Eradication Initiative for over 10 years. “
“My experiences in polio eradication activities allowed me to immediately swing into action. So, when the outbreak was confirmed, I realized the need to use my expertise to serve communities at risk in the state.”
“The confirmation on 05 January 2018 was reminiscent of the day that the first Ebola virus was reported in 2014 and the Country office in Abuja deployed some of us to assist with contact tracing in Lagos state.”
The Deputy Governor of Edo State, His Excellency Philip Shaibu noted that “WHO was the first to draw attention to the fact that we need to galvanize resources from all partners, from other parts of the country to ensure that things get done”.
“The health organisation as we all know is one of the pillars that has helped lead surveillance in Edo state. Over the years they have been supporting surveillance extensively but in this particular outbreak.Edo state was one of the hardest hit by the outbreak that required a major action”
On several instances, polio workers have provided frontline support for outbreak response. For example, polio workers were essential to containing the Ebola virus outbreak in 2014. For the Lassa fever response, 271 are involved in active case search, 235 in contact tracing and 320 in community sensitization activities in the 18 states active states.
“The polio teams on ground in the states were crucial for mounting the initial response to the Lassa fever outbreak and have continued to be WHO’s frontline technical support to the NCDC, States Ministry of Health and local government area teams”, Dr Emmanuel Musa, WHO Incident Manager for Lassa fever Management Team in Nigeria observed. Huge investments by donors and partners have gone beyond polio eradication to saving lives and impacting positively on people’s health. WHO and other partners are currently supporting the National transition plan development to ensure these investments are not wasted, but made available to support other National public health efforts and priorities ”