Eleven counties have been identified as having the greatest risk of polio outbreaks. They are Mombasa, Nairobi, Lamu, Tana River, Garissa, Wajir, Marsabit, Kilifi, Turkana, Isiolo and Mandera.
Mombasa was among the counties facing an acute shortage of polio vaccines for immunising children, exposing them to the risk of the disease.
On Monday, the Ministry of Health launched a five-day door-to-door national polio vaccination drive targeting 2.6 million children below five years in the 11 most at-risk counties.
Teams of health workers and community health volunteers will carry out the campaign in homes, churches, mosques, schools, madrassa, the Likoni ferry channel, recreational places and other places where people congregate.
Speaking during the launch of the campaign that began on Saturday, acting Director-General for Health Wekesa Masasabi, said under-five-year-old children are particularly vulnerable to diseases because their immunity is not fully developed.
For the last six years, Kenya has been polio-free, with the last imported wild polio virus case reported on July 14, 2013.
“Polio is a serious disease. It can cause paralysis, disability and kill. During polio outbreaks in Garissa in 2013, 14 people were paralysed while two died,” Dr Masasabi said, adding, global efforts had been put in place to eradicate polio. Dr Joel Gondi, a technical adviser at the ministry, read the speech on the DG’s behalf, and urged counties to strengthen routine immunisation.
Polio is a highly infectious viral disease that mainly affects young children. The virus is spread mainly through the faecal-oral route or, and less often, by a common vehicle such as contaminated water or food. It multiplies in the intestine from where it can invade the nervous system and cause paralysis.
Initial symptoms of polio include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck, and pain in the limbs, the World Health Organisation says.
In a small proportion of cases, the disease causes paralysis, which is often permanent. There is no cure for polio, but it can be prevented by immunisation.
The oral vaccine is given to newborns at birth, six weeks and 10 weeks, before they receive an injectable version at 14 weeks.