Poliomyelitis outbreak in Papua New Guinea: health system and health security implications for PNG and Australia

John J Hall, Tabian Ambang, Augustine Asante, Pili Mapira, Adam Craig, Elisabeth Schuele and Maha Pervaz Iqbal
Med J Aust 2019; 211 (4): . || doi: 10.5694/mja2.50283
Published online: 19 August 2019

To help PNG prevent and respond to infectious disease outbreaks of domestic and international concern, Australia must continue to provide high level technical and financial support

On 21 May 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed a case of vaccine‐derived poliovirus type 1 in a child with acute flaccid paralysis in Lae, Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea. The onset of paralysis occurred on 24 April 2018.1 As a result of active case detection, on 20 June 2018 the WHO regional reference laboratory confirmed vaccine‐derived poliovirus type 1 in stool samples from two close and otherwise healthy contacts of the index case, confirming a polio outbreak.1 On 27 June, the PNG Government declared a national emergency, establishing a National Emergency Operations Centre to coordinate the polio response.2 The first component of the response was the roll‐out of a nationwide supplementary polio vaccination campaign targeting children aged < 5 years. Four polio vaccination campaigns targeting all children < 15 years of age followed.2 By the end of 2018, 97% of children < 15 years of age had reportedly been vaccinated.2 The second component of the response was community‐focused risk communication using both media and social mobilisation approaches to increase population awareness and understanding of polio and the risks posed, and to generate demand for the polio vaccination campaigns.2 The third component was enhanced surveillance for acute flaccid paralysis. This resulted in 25 additional polio cases being identified (ie, 26 cases in total: six in Eastern Highlands Province; five in Enga; four in East Sepik; three in Morobe; three in Madang; two in Jiwaka; and one case in each of Southern Highlands Province, the National Capital District [Port Moresby] and Gulf Province).2

  • 1 University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW
  • 2 Divine Word University, Madang, Papua New Guinea
  • 3 University of Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea


Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.


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