The health authorities in Malawi have declared an outbreak of wild poliovirus type 1 after a case was detected in a young child in the capital Lilongwe. This is the first case of wild poliovirus in Africa in more than five years.
Africa was declared free of indigenous wild polio in August 2020 after eliminating all forms of wild polio from the region. Laboratory analysis shows that the strain detected in Malawi is linked to the one that has been circulating in Sindh Province in Pakistan. Polio remains endemic in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As an imported case from Pakistan, this detection does not affect the African region’s wild poliovirus-free certification status.
“As long as wild polio exists anywhere in the world all countries remain at risk of importation of the virus,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa. “Following the detection of wild polio in Malawi, we’re taking urgent measures to forestall its potential spread. Thanks to a high level of polio surveillance in the continent and the capacity to quickly detect the virus, we can swiftly launch a rapid response and protect children from the debilitating impact of this disease.”