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    A public health emergency has been declared in three Papua New Guinea provinces as the country responds to its first polio outbreak in 18 years.

     

    The government’s National Executive Council has declared Morobe, Madang and Eastern Highlands as infected areas.

    The World Health Organisation confirmed the outbreak this week after the virus was found in a six-year-old boy in Morobe’s Lufa Mountain settlement.

    The same strain was then detected in two other healthy children in the community, thus confirming it as an outbreak.

    The type in Lufa Mountain is a vaccine-derived form of polio, meaning it’s a mutated version of the weaker polio virus used in vaccinations.

    It was able to spread because the immunisation rates, sanitation and hygiene in the area are poor.

    The government said it had set aside $US2 million for the response, while the World Health Organisation has chipped in with $US500,000 and three experts.

    The health minister, Sir Puka Temu, said the emergency will last 12 months, and a mass-vaccination drive is underway in the three provinces to contain the outbreak.

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