Friday, June 09, 2006

Polio precautions for travel to Namibia

With Namibia battling its first outbreak of polio in ten years, hunters and other travelers are considering polio precautions.

Three cases have been positively identified as polio. A total of 34 cases are suspected, and seven people have died as of Thursday. The infected people come from three different regions across the country: Khomas, Hardap and Otjozondjupa. (New Era newspaper, Windhoek)

UPDATE June 14:
The polio outbreak that was first reported on May 10 has now spread to seven regions including the four most densely populated areas in the country. Forty-seven people have been infected with the disease while ten have died. (New Era, Windhoek)

What is Namibia doing to stop polio?
  • Namibia already has a childhood vaccination program, and monitors for polio. Currently, the vaccination rate is between 60% and 80%.
  • Namibia is launching a nationwide, door-to-door vaccination for all 1.8 million residents targeting this particular outbreak.
  • UNICEF is supporting the Namibian government with funding for the vaccinations.
(UN News Service, New York)

What is polio? What can I do to protect myself?
Mostly polio virus infects children under five, and most people who are infected actually don't show symptoms or feel sick. So don't panic. It is possible for polio to be spread through contaminated water or food, so sensible precautions like regular handwashing and sticking to bottled water are in order. If you are heading for Namibia soon, consider a polio vaccine:
  • adults can get a booster shot
  • if you were never vaccinated, you can get the three-shot series now as an adult
(US Centers for Disease Control)

Joe and I are getting ready for our next trip to Namibia very soon. We may be a bit more aware of polio than most folks. Both of our fathers contracted polio, and Joe's father walked on crutches all his life because of it. That's an awareness builder! Yesterday, we received a booster of polio vaccine, for free from the county health department. If the price is free, how could you not? One of the nurses (old enough to remember real outbreaks in the US) said, "If there is an outbreak, then there is no question. You get a booster."

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