Polio has killed nearly 100 people, mainly young adults, in the Republic of Congo and paralyzed more than twice as many in the past six weeks, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and a report from Reuters.
The crippling viral disease normally strikes children under five years of age, making the acute, fast-spreading outbreak unusual, the U.N. agency said.
“Most of the cases have involved young adults aged between 15 and 29. This illustrates that populations are at risk because they have not been exposed to a full immunization,” it said.
184 cases of acute flaccid paralysis and 85 deaths have been reported from the site of the acute poliomyelitis outbreak centred in Pointe Noire, Republic of Congo. The mortality rate is higher than normal for the disease, which attacks the nervous system.
The virus comes from a strain from India, one of four remaining endemic countries — where the virus survives and its spread has never been interrupted — along with Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.
A first wave of mass polio vaccination campaigns, targeting 3 million people of all ages, is set to begin on Friday in Congo and parts of Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The WHO, UNICEF, Rotary International and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been working together since 1988 to eradicate polio, which infected at least 350,000 people in 125 endemic countries each year at the time.