WHO responds to imported polio outbreak in Tajikistan

WHO sent a team of international experts to Tajikistan on 16 April 2010 to investigate a suspected poliomyelitis (polio) outbreak and to provide technical support to the Government, in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Genetic sequencing has determined that the wild poliovirus type 1 found in Tajikistan is most closely related to viral strains previously identified in Uttar Pradesh, India.

WHO keeps all WHO Member States informed about its epidemiological and clinical findings through channels established by the International Health Regulations (IHR). On 26 April, 4 million doses of monovalent oral polio vaccine (mOPV1), supplied and deployed by UNICEF, arrived in Tajikistan for three rounds of national vaccination to reach about 1.1 million children under the age of 6. With its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, WHO is supporting the Ministry of Health of Tajikistan in conducting the vaccination programme. The first round began on 4 May.

This is the first outbreak from imported poliovirus in the WHO European Region since the Region was certified polio-free in 2002. With the active participation of its partners, WHO will continue to provide technical and field support until the outbreak is brought under control. WHO is working closely with the governments of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to prevent the possible spread of the outbreak in eastern central Asia.

Rotary International, CDC, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) have already pledged over US$ 1.6 million in emergency funding to support the international assistance programme on the ground. WHO and UNICEF are seeking additional funding to support urgent vaccination campaigns in Tajikistan and other countries in eastern central Asia.