Polio has not returned to Venezuela, WHO says
Posted June 15, 2018 2:05 p.m. EDT
(CNN) — A child in Venezuela who was reported to have a common symptom of polio does not have the viral disease, World Health Organization said Friday.
When the child, who is almost 3 years old, near the Orinoco delta in Delta Amacuro state showed symptoms of acute flaccid paralysis on April 29, it was of great concern. Acute flaccid paralysis is a sudden onset of weakness or loss of the ability to move any part of the body in a child younger than 15. More than 100,000 cases are identified and investigated every year as part of polio surveillance, according to WHO.
There has not been a case of polio in Venezuela in 29 years, but this area, one of the nation's poorest, is known to have low vaccination rates.
Stool samples were obtained from the child, and the Sabin type 3 poliovirus was isolated for testing. In a statement, WHO noted that finding the virus in a stool sample is not unexpected among people who have been vaccinated.
"Final laboratory analysis received today has confirmed that the AFP symptoms are not associated with wild or vaccine-derived poliovirus," the statement said.
Acute flaccid paralysis can be caused by "a number of conditions or infections," including polio. Doctors are still trying to determine the cause of this child's paralysis.
"The most important point is that the child should be provided with appropriate care and support," WHO said. "While wild and vaccine-derived polio have both been ruled out as the cause of this child's symptoms, this area of Venezuela is experiencing vaccination coverage gaps. It is critical that countries maintain high immunity to polio in all communities, and strong disease surveillance, to minimize the risk and consequences of any eventual poliovirus reintroduction or reemergence."
Poliovirus has been eradicated in all but three countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. The highly infectious viral disease spreads from person to person and through contaminated food and water. It causes permanent paralysis in some patients as a result of the virus invading the brain and spinal cord. There is no treatment or cure, and it can be fatal.