Polio shots strongly advised

The Public Health Department is encouraging the public to check records to ensure they have been immunised against polio.

The request comes in the wake of a polio outbreak in Namibia.

Cayman Islands Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kiran Kumar has advised that although there is no need for immediate alarm, it is important that the Cayman Islands be protected.

‘Because [we are] busy with international travel, it is important that members of the public exercise all precautionary measures. We must make sure that we are protected,’ said Dr. Kumar.

Namibia launched a three-day mass immunisation campaign yesterday in response to the first polio outbreak the country has seen in 10 years.

The campaign aims to immunise the entire population of 2 million people, rather than just children.

Spokesman for the World Health Organisation Oliver Rosenbauer told the Associated Press that the outbreak was most unusual because it was primarily affecting adults, whereas polio is most common in children.

The outbreak has so far killed 15 and affected 96 people. There is no cure, but early detection and medical treatment can save a life.

The Cayman Islands has remained polio-free since 1957, while the whole Western Hemisphere has been polio-free since 1991, said the Public Health Department.

The last case in the Western hemisphere to occur was in Peru in a two-year old child.

Cayman Islands Government Information Service reported there is a surveillance system in place for early detection of any imported polio cases in the country.

The recommended immunisation schedule for children involves four doses of polio vaccine being administered.

The Public Health Department has released its 2006 Cayman Islands Childhood Immunisation Schedule.

The schedule recommends that children are vaccinated against Hepatitis B at birth, followed by the second Hepatitis B injection and a BCG vaccination that prevents against tuberculosis (TB) at six weeks of age.

At two months of age, a child should be vaccinated against Haemphilus Influenza type B, polio and DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis). This combination of vaccines should be administered every two months between the ages of two months and six months.

At nine months, a child should receive its third and final Hepatitis B injection.

When a child is one year old, a varicella injection should be administered, which protects against chicken pox.

A DTaP and a Haemphilus Influenza booster should be given at 15 months of age, along with a MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) injection.

When a child reaches the age of four or five years (age of school entry), a second booster for DTaP should be administered, along with a polio booster and the second MMR vaccine.

For any further information on the polio vaccine, contact Alice Jane Ebanks, Expanded Programme on Immunisation manager, at 244-2627, or go online and view the Global Polio Eradication Initiative at http://polioeradication.org.

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