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Britain’s Got Polio and Nigeria Must Learn!

By Odoh Diego Okenyodo

Nowadays the First World countries are fast becoming Third World in affliction. Remember what happened during the Covid19 pandemic and it was expected that the cart away bodies on the floors of Third World countries in Africa and it turned out that the First World countries had the greater affliction. Now polio has emerged in Britain. Even in the United States of America. And Nigeria that was certified polio free in August 2020 needs to be vigilant.

It is a serious threat to global health order. By that I mean, this is not the order of things as they are designed to be, that Third World countries like Nigeria would eradicate poliomyelitis and then their ogas would have a resurgence. Come to think of it, Britain has not had a case of polio since 2003. Now, samples taken from their sewage shows they are likely to be dealing with huge spread of the virus linked to the vaccines. But as expected, the Queen’s country wants to blame on ‘us’, poorer countries that are supposed to be reservoirs of these kinds of ailments. Officials say they suspect that the infection came from persons who must have taken the oral polio vaccine (OPV) from countries like ours that use it, because they in the developed world use the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV), which is made from dead viruses. Okay, the OPV contains viruses that are alive but weak, so that is understandable.

But, my concern in all of this relates to how polio is transmitted. It is simply through food or water that is contaminated. So, if First-World London (as well as New York) is getting potentially widespread polio infection, they need to question the safety of their food and water, isn’t it? I don’t know if I am making too much of this but something is telling me that some places are overrated. Or our praying too much counts for something. I don’t know.

You see, I seem to be talking about the US polio case tangentially and it might seeem that the case isnt as big. But in fact rhat is a much bigger case than the London one, in that the person involved had suffered from paralysis in a place called Rockland County in New York City. I wonder why these two paralysis cases are all taking place in York, whether the old one in the UK or the new one. But I will hold my peace on that and keep watching.

But while I watch, I note again that Israel has got a case of polio in Jerusalem. And I am not able to yell, “What the #ell is going on!” since I cannot be swearing. But these are all the most advanced places in the world, with the latest health technology and public health infrastructure, and the cleanest environment. Supposedly. Is there some smokescreen in the portrayal of these countries? I ask because the fact is that I did I hyper-summary when I said earlier that the virus is transmitted through food and water. In fact, it is transmitted when the virus from an infected person’s stool gets in contact with food. You see why all these celebrity chefs must be looked upon with suspicion? And those Farmer’s Market guys should all be bathing in hand sanitisers every half an hour.

Polio is an interesting job supplier, though. The polio eradication programme became the most highly funded health campaign in history. From 1988 to 2020, the Global Polio Eradication Programme estimated that the campaign had received $18b from donors such as Rotary, and partners such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Thats a lot of money, and when there is a lot of money, there is incentive to not let the flow come to an end. The programme’s budget from 2019 to 2023 is estimated to be almost $5b. I shudder at the thought of converting $5b to naira at an exchange rate of 700 naira to one dollar. Even an the most daring public official would be scared of trying to pocket that.

Nonetheless, with the vast funding comes untold profit for vaccine makers and other people in the value chain. People with expertise like mine in communication get paid for supporting the eradication of polio, but very little emphasis is placed on hygiene promotion in the scheme. The emphasis is on vaccination. Vaccination is thought to reduce the chances of paralyses when a person is infected. In the UK now, all children under 10 years are being compelled to take the vaccine against polio. That’s for the children in London, though. I am not aware if the New York City administration plans to respond in a similar manner.

Of course, they say the vaccine is free for every child getting it, but it will cost government something. One of the private service providers offers the vaccine to traveller at about £40. But how about ensuring that no one gets infected, or very few, if at all? How about emphasising that personal and environmental hygiene can make a big difference to most of the infectious diseases the world is living with? This biomedical approach to response to diseases mainly benefits a few multinational companies and needs review.

In this light, I want to impress upon the government and its agencies the importance of Port Health, ensuring that anyone travelling from the UK, Israel and the United States of America gets good attention concerning polio vaccination. Travel advisories need to be released now for Nigerians visiting these countries because this is the vacation season when we rush to these countries. Of course, last year when routine sampling revealed vaccine derived polio in the environment, International travel advisory was loud (and has not changed) that people should be well vaccinated coming into and going out of Nigeria. We should return this favour now. Secondly, a campaign around personal hygiene would help in many ways. At least, Covid, cholera, and polio would benefit from better personal and environmental hygiene. Then we talk of malaria amd diarrhoea and all those other killers; malaria alone kills over 200,000 Nigerians annually, worse than the attrocities committed by Boko Haram, bandits, and Unknown Gunmen put together. We need to put all these in context.

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