LAGOS, Nigeria, Aug. 11 (UPI) — Nigeria reported two new cases of polio this week, the first cases in two years, the World Health Organization said.
The two reported cases are children, now paralyzed, in northeastern Nigeria, where Boko Haram activity is rampant. Militants have frequently attacked the vaccination centers, based on the myth that it was actually a plot to sterilize Muslims.
The disease is a virus that children are particularly vulnerable to and is caused by bad sanitation and contaminated water. Immunization is considered the only prevention.
“We are deeply saddened by the news that 2 Nigerian children have been paralyzed by polio,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “The Government has made significant strides to stop this paralyzing disease in recent years. The overriding priority now is to rapidly immunize all children around the affected area and ensure that no other children succumb to this terrible disease.”
Nigeria has accounted for more than half of all polio cases in recent years, but through a massive coordination of government and religious and health leaders the country was on a path to be polio free by 2017. The last case of polio reported in Nigeria was in July 2014.