Best Practice: Tanzania ramps up surveillance to tackle threat of polio

Tanzania, 28 June- 9 July 2017 - Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious viral disease, which mainly affects young children. The virus is transmitted by person-to-person spread mainly through the faecal-oral route and multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system and can cause paralysis. In the event of a polio outbreak, it is important that all countries, in particular those with frequent travel and contacts with the affected countries and areas, strengthen surveillance for Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) cases in order to rapidly detect any new virus importation and to facilitate a rapid response.

The Democratic Republic of Congo recently suffered an outbreak of polio, a debilitating and potentially deadly disease that the world is determined to eradicate. The four Congolese cases were caused by circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2, which emerges in areas with only patchy vaccine coverage after being excreted by people who have been vaccinated.

In response to the threat of getting importation, WHO recently supported Tanzania to conduct risk assessment and intensified AFP surveillance in six regions bordering DRC, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda. The six regions were: Kagera, Kigoma, Katavi, Rukwa, Songwe and Mbeya with total population of 10,242,145 people.The exercise was conducted in 37 districts covering a total of 1,373 health facility surveillance sites; and dozens of traditional and spiritual community healers were also targeted.

A group of 24 trained surveillance officers from the Ministry of Health, President’s Office Regional Administration & Local Government (PORALG), WHO, USAID and National STOP Team were deployed. Teams were provided with standardised tools including surveillance management tools, line list, mobile data collection tool and health education materials for sensitization of health workers, community healers and community members.

The main achievements were the following:

• Sensitization of 2,533 health workers, 140 community healers and 7,638 community leaders and members on active AFP surveillance •  Active search for AFP, Measles and Rubella in 558 sites •  Distribution of  3000 copies of AFP surveillance and 1500 measles surveillance leaflets in Swahili to health workers as reference materials • Reporting of a total of 16 AFP cases which were investigated accordingly and  6 of them found to be true AFP cases

The next steps agreed to be implemented through the Region and Council Health Management Teams include:

• Maintain intensified AFP surveillance through active case search and community sensitization • Sensitize and conduct active search to facilities not reached by the response team • Conduct regular clinician sensitization on surveillance to strengthen case detection • Sensitize and collaborate with community leaders, traditional and spiritual healers on AFP surveillance

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For Additional Information or to Request Interviews, Please contact:
Dr. Neema Kileo

Email: kileon [at] who.int
Tel: +255 755 551 804