Polio outbreak in Namibia leaves seven dead

Seven people have died in Namibia and 27 have fallen ill after an outbreak of polio, the first in the Southern African country since 1995, the health ministry said on Tuesday.

“We have 34 cases and I can confirm today that it is polio,” said Kalumbi Shangula, the permanent secretary of the health ministry. The majority of cases were reported in and around the capital, Windhoek.

“We have to embark on a massive campaign to vaccinate all two million citizens in the country in due course,” Shangula told reporters.

The first case of the disease — that can damage the nervous system and cause paralysis — was detected on May 6, but the government was awaiting results of tests conducted in South Africa to confirm that it was polio.

A child aged under one died last week of polio, while 12 cases were reported among Namibians aged 24 to 29.

The government carried out a vaccination drive on 14 000 children in Windhoek’s north-western township of Katutura over the weekend.

Namibia had been polio-free since 1995.

“This is quite a setback to our national efforts to eradicate the disease,” Shangula said. — AFP

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