Kyrgyzstan Takes Bold Steps to Bolster Polio Preparedness and Response

Kyrgyzstan has taken proactive measures to strengthen its preparedness and response capabilities to effectively manage any potential poliomyelitis (polio) outbreaks in the future.

It is unethical to continue using polio-causing oral polio vaccines for eradication of polio.

About Poliomyelitis (Polio)

  • Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious viral disease that largely affects children under 5 years of age.
  • It is caused by a virus belonging to the Picornaviridae family that mainly affects nerves in the spinal cord or brain stem.

Polio Strains

There are three individual and immunologically-distinct wild poliovirus strains:

  • Wild Poliovirus type 1 (WPV1)
  • Wild Poliovirus type 2 (WPV2)
  • Wild Poliovirus type 3 (WPV3)

Symptomatically, all three strains are identical, in that they cause irreversible paralysis or even death.

Spread

The virus is transmitted by person-to-person spread mainly through the faecal-oral route or, less frequently, by a common vehicle (e.g. contaminated water or food)

Treatment

  • An inactivated (killed) polio vaccine (IPV)
  • A live attenuated (weakened) oral polio vaccine (OPV)

Proactive Measures in the Face of Potential Polio Outbreaks in the WHO European Region

Kyrgyzstan, a country in the WHO European Region, has demonstrated commendable commitment to safeguarding public health by taking proactive measures to strengthen its preparedness and response capabilities against potential poliomyelitis (polio) outbreaks.

While the region has been free of endemic polio since 2002, the risk of outbreaks remains as long as the virus continues to circulate worldwide. To address this concern, Kyrgyzstan has initiated comprehensive actions to protect its population and curb any potential spread of the highly infectious and debilitating disease.

Proactively Strengthening Surveillance and Vaccination Campaigns

Health authorities in Kyrgyzstan have intensified surveillance efforts for the poliovirus, aiming to detect any possible importation or spread. In response to a polio outbreak in neighboring Tajikistan in 2021 and multiple detections of polioviruses in other countries within the region in 2022, Kyrgyzstan has taken a proactive approach to stay vigilant and be prepared for any eventuality.

To bolster immunization rates, a nationwide catch-up campaign was launched, targeting 260,000 children who may have missed polio vaccination doses in the past. This initiative ensures a higher level of immunity among the vulnerable population, reducing the risk of outbreaks gaining traction.

Moreover, in preparation for potential outbreaks, health authorities have been proactive in verifying the readiness for using the novel oral polio vaccine. By having a contingency plan in place, Kyrgyzstan aims to act swiftly to contain any potential outbreak of poliovirus type 2.

Leading the Way with Polio Outbreak Simulation Exercise (POSE)

Kyrgyzstan stands out as a pioneer in the WHO European Region by conducting a Polio Outbreak Simulation Exercise (POSE) on 11–12 July. This simulation exercise, designed by WHO/Europe, serves as a table-top discussion-based activity that allows countries to critically review their preparedness and update their national polio outbreak response plans.

The POSE focused on two potential scenarios: the importation of wild poliovirus and the emergence of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2. Key stakeholders and public health experts came together to address crucial aspects of outbreak management, including rapid response coordination, surveillance and detection, laboratory diagnostics, vaccination campaigns, and risk communication and community engagement.

By participating in this exercise, Kyrgyzstan’s health officials gained valuable hands-on experience, honing their skills and knowledge for a swift and efficient response in the event of a poliovirus event or outbreak. The exercise reinforces the importance of having a well-coordinated and rapid response mechanism in place to effectively combat potential outbreaks.

A Strong Collaborative Effort

The Polio Outbreak Simulation Exercise was organized at the request of the Ministry of Health of Kyrgyzstan, with technical support provided by WHO/Europe and the country office. The collaborative effort ensures that Kyrgyzstan is well-equipped to tackle any potential challenges posed by polio outbreaks in the future.

Continuing Vigilance and Preparedness

As WHO recommends, all countries must remain vigilant and strengthen their polio surveillance systems and vaccination programs. The European Regional Commission for Certification of Poliomyelitis Eradication has repeatedly stressed the importance of preparedness, encouraging countries in the European Region to conduct POSE activities.

Kyrgyzstan’s proactive measures serve as an exemplary model for other countries in the region to follow suit. By prioritizing preparedness and response capabilities, the nation stands firm in its commitment to protect its citizens from the threat of polio outbreaks and work towards a polio-free world.

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