Ghana has recorded eight cases of wild polio after successfully recording no case for three continuous years, thus disrupting efforts made towards declaring Ghana and the African continent polio free by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The cases, all imported from Benin, were detected in the eastern part of the Northern Region, during last year's national immunisation exercise.
Speaking to the Ghana News Agency, Dr Kwadwo Antwi-Agyei, Programme Manager for the Expanded Programme on Immunisation of the Ghana Health Service, described the eight confirmed cases as paralysis in children, which were being managed clinically since there was no treatment for the disease.
He said the specimen were confirmed positive after being sent to South Africa for further sequencing to determine the source of the polio virus after the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research had done some analysis.
“There is no drug for diseases caused by the virus, therefore, what we need is prevention and this should be a coordinated effort, involving our neighbouring countries and the continent as a whole.
“If we in Ghana put in our interventions and other countries around us do not, then we always experience imported cases, he stated.”
In Africa, Ghana, Mali, Benin, Nigeria and Burkina Faso are the only countries recording wild polio cases.
Dr Antwi-Agyei explained that it was Africa that would be certified as a polio free continent and not individual countries and “that will be after the various countries have successfully recorded no wild polio cases for three continuous years”.
It said that throughout the world, it is only Africa and Asia that have not been certified as polio free continents.
He said the first round of national campaign to immunise children under five years against polio and other childhood diseases would begin on February 12-14, 2009 and the second round on March 26-28, 2009.
He gave the assurance that the GHS would continue with its interventions and even intensify efforts in declaring Ghana a polio free country and ensure a concerted effort with the neighbouring countries to eliminate polio from the continent.
“We will also be strengthening and intensifying our immunisation efforts to ensure that every child is immunised”.