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WHO calls to step up polio surveillance along borders


JOHANNESBURG, 16 Aug 2005 (IRIN) - The UN World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for polio immunisation to be stepped up along Angola's borders with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zambia.

Oliver Rosenbauer, WHO's polio spokesman, noted that "the recent two cases in Angola - bringing the total to six cases in that country - were diagnosed close to the ... borders with the DRC and Zambia in the northeast".

The first of the six cases in Angola was reported in June this year; previously, the last polio case in Angola had been recorded in 2001.

"We don't want a similar situation developing here again. We have asked the DRC and Zambia to step up polio surveillance along the borders," he said, adding that the DRC had already planned polio immunisations camps along its borders with Angola next month.

Rosenbauer referred to the 2003 polio outbreak in Nigeria, which spread to neighbouring countries and put 15 million children at risk. The outbreak required a massive immunisation campaign across five countries in west and central Africa.

Zambian health spokesman Dr Victor Mukonka told IRIN that they had a "very strong surveillance" system in place. "We have been holding our immunisation camps regularly - as we are aiming for a polio-free certificate this year."

The last polio case in Zambia was recorded in 2002.

In July the Angolan Ministry of Health, supported by the WHO and UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), immunised five million children in a campaign against the disease, which mainly affects youngsters under five and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours.

Another immunisation drive is expected to be held in Angola this month.

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