June 8, 2006

Namibia plans mass polio vaccination campaign

WINDHOEK (Reuters) - The Namibian government said on Thursday it would begin a mass vaccination campaign to combat a deadly polio outbreak after supplies of vaccine are airlifted into the southwestern African nation later this month.

Seven people have died and another 27 infected with polio in Namibia in the past month. Namibia's ministry of health plans to begin innoculating people on June 21 using the monovalent Oral Polio Vaccine (mOPV).

"The mOPV is currently not available in Namibia but is being airlifted into Namibia by UNICEF suppliers and ... expected to arrive in the country on 16 June 2006," said Dr. Kalumbi Shangula, a senior ministry of health official.

Polio, a viral disease of the brain and spinal cord that normally affects children, attacks the central nervous system, often causing paralysis, muscular atrophy and deformity. Five to 10 percent of those infected die.

On Wednesday, the World Health Organization said the strain involved in the Namibian outbreak had been imported from Angola.