PRETORIA, Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has called on parents and caregivers to ensure that all children below the age of five years in South Africa are vaccinated against polio.
“As long as a single child remains unvaccinated from this potentially fatal infectious disease, all other children attending school with him or her are at risk of contracting polio, hence we recommend that children under the age of five be immunised against this most common childhood disease at the nearest health care facility,” Motsoaledi said Wednesday.
Polio is caused by a very small germ called the polio virus and can lead to permanent lameness, deformity and even death.
However, with routine immunizations in childhood, polio has not been seen in South Africa since 1989, although there have been outbreaks of polio in neighbouring countries.
Polio can easily be imported and spread in a polio-free country if all children have not been fully vaccinated.
The initial signs and symptoms of polio include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, constipation or less commonly diarrhoea, neck stiffness and pain in the limbs.
In most severe cases, the polio virus attacks the motor neurons of the brain stem, reducing breathing capacity and causing difficulty in swallowing and speaking.
Without adequate respiratory support, this form of polio, called bulbar polio, can result in death. Polio vaccination is part of South Africa’s expanded programme of immunization and is offered at birth, six weeks, ten weeks and 14 weeks.
“Immunisations for childhood vaccine preventable diseases are available free of charge at all times at public health facilities, hence we urge all parents and care givers to bring along the Road to Health Booklet when they take their children for immunisations,” Motsoaledi said.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK