Introduction: The last wild poliovirus (WPV) case in Africa was reported in July 2014, thus underscoring the tremendous progress towards polio eradication worldwide. This study aimed to analyze the results of a seven-year surveillance of Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and to identify potential gaps that need to be addressed.
Methods: Epidemiological and virological data obtained from AFP surveillance among AFP cases less than 15 years from January 2008 to December 2014 in DRC were retrospectively considered and analyzed in this study.
Results: Of the 13,749 AFP cases investigated, 58.9% received at least three doses of oral polio vaccine (OPV), 7.3% never received OPV, while the status of 18.3% was unknown. Analysis of surveillance performances showed that all, but two, indicators were below the required WHO-specified targets. Non-polio enterovirus (NPEV) isolation rate was consistently below the minimum requirement at ≥10% and the proportions of stool specimens that reached the laboratory within 72 hours of being sent were always below 15% (WHO target is ≥80%). Virus isolation and differentiation showed that 1.5% of AFP cases were infected by WPVs, 5.5% by Sabin strains, 0.5% by vaccine-derived polioviruses (VDPVs) and 7.2% by NPEVs.
Conclusion: Our findings indicate that additional efforts are needed to address the timeliness of adequate stool specimens' arrival to the laboratory. It remains essential to maintain high polio vaccine coverage and high AFP surveillance standards to ensure rapid detection and containment of either WPV importation or VDPV re-emergence in DRC.
Keywords: Democratic Republic of Congo; Poliomyelitis; indicators; paralysis; poliovirus; surveillance.