Vaccination must continue for SL to remain Polio Free nation | Sunday Observer

Vaccination must continue for SL to remain Polio Free nation

27 October, 2019

Following global attention on preventing Polio during World Polio Eradication day ( Oct. 24) , a leading Epidemiologist of the Ministry of Health reiterated the importance of Polio vaccination for Sri Lanka to remain as a Polio free country.

Speaking to the Sunday Observer , Consultant Epidemiologist, Epidemiology Unit, Ministry of Health, Dr Deepa Gamage said, “Polio outbreaks continue to occur globally. Hence it is essential to safeguard the local public and vaccinate all children at the correct age with recommended doses.” She also drew attention to the need to vaccinate travellers to polio endemic and polio affected countries, saying a polio vaccination was recommended for all such travellers. “High Polio vaccination in the country through the National Immunization Program hold the key to protecting persons from the deadly disease”, she informed. She said the last polio case in the country was in 1993.

Explaining how the disease was transmitted, she said Poliomyelitis (Polio) was caused by one of three polio viruses (PV) serotypes belonging to the Picornaviridae family. “It is a highly contagious illness transmitted by close person to person contact, mainly through the faeco-oral route – an infected person who does not practise proper hand or body hygiene and safe food practices pass the infection to another person. It can also spread through infected saliva and respiratory system secretions. Polio viruses grow in the intestinal system and are shed through faeces. The virus typically spreads in areas with poor water and sewage sanitation; wild polio virus is found in this type of environment and puts unvaccinated people at risk.”, she said. “If the person is not immune to polio, after virus multiplication in the gut of the infected person, the virus enters into the blood and travels all over in the body and affects the nervous system causing paralysis, and could lead to death or long term disability resulting from complications of paralysis,” she told the newspaper.

She said, since Sri Lanka is now a tourist destination, travellers from polio-endemic and infected countries can spread the disease while travelling, without outward signs and symptoms, and thus transmit the virus silently. “ However, if our population is well vaccinated Sri Lanka can be immune and continue to remain uninfected by Polio,” she emphasized. She added that travellers to polio-endemic and infected countries were strongly advised to get Polio vaccination, both Oral Polio Vaccine or Inactivated Polio Vaccine at least four weeks before and within 12 months before they travel. “This facility is available in the Port Health Offices in the country and International Vaccination Certificates will be issued as proof of the vaccination. Children who have received all childhood 5 doses, at 2, 4, 6, 18 and 60 months are adequately protected and further doses are not required” she said.

Most stroke patients arrive at hospitals too late

Only 16% of stroke patients arrive at hospitals early following a stroke, Vice President of the National Stroke Association Dr Harsha Gunasekara told the Sunday Observer. He said clot buster treatment had been introduced in major hospitals a few years ago, for patients who arrived within three hours of a suspected stroke . “This treatment though expensive, is given free at state hospitals. Unfortunately, in spite of most patients now being aware of this facility following our awareness raising efforts, they miss out on this window of opportunity due to their late arrival at hospital,” he lamented. He said that most major hospitals now had either stroke units or neurology units to care for stroke patients. “Stroke units don’t need high tech equipment. They are mostly a defined area set apart for the care and rehabilitation of stroke victims by a dedicated team comprising doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, social workers and nutritionists,” he said, adding that the Health Ministry has also initiated several fully equipped stroke units while improving existing ones.” He said the highlight of National Stroke Day observed last week was the all island training program for carers of stroke victims. He said patients admitted for stroke according to the Sri Lanka Stroke clinical records found 33% of patients were less than 60 years and still working.

Beware of infectious disease surge from landslides and flooding

Due to the prevailing adverse weather conditions in the Southern, Western, Sabaragamuwa, Central and North Western Provinces, Epidemiology Unit sources from the Ministry of Health told the Sunday Observer, that they had advised all regional epidemiologists to be on red alert with regard to any outbreak of communicable disease and increase their surveillance in all affected areas. They said medical officers of health of the respective areas had been instructed to oversee the conditions of landslide and flooded areas, and pay special attention to safe water and safe food as well as clean environments and latrines with plenty of water and soap for those in temporary shelters. A set of guidelines has also been issued to Regional Health directors on how to identify water sources and treat contaminated water, on safe food storage and preparation of food, they said. “Although the number of persons in these temporary shelters are rising due to flooding and landslides we have managed to keep down the numbers to a minimum due to education programs and immediate treatment of common infections such as skin disease, conjunctivitis, flu, and mental trauma. We have trained officers, Physiotherapists and nurses who have given their time freely to help these unfortunate people”, a health spokesman said on anonymous grounds. All regional heads have also been asked to communicate with the Epidemiology Unit daily during the current emergency situation and provide them updates to obtain added support if necessary, the source said.