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PH polio-free no longer; virus reemerges; DOH warning out

Nineteen years after the Philippines was declared by the World Health Organization polio-free in 2000, the Department of Health on Thursday confirmed the disease was reemerging in the country. 

PH polio-free no longer; virus reemerges; DOH warning out
UNWANTED RETURNEE. This file photo, taken on Feb. 2, 2002, shows a health worker administering oral polio vaccines to an infant in Manila as part of a nationwide campaign. Polio has returned to haunt the Philippines after a 19-year absence, with health authorities Thursday reporting one case of the debilitating disease as the country’s immunization program took a hit after a dengue vaccine scandal. AFP
In this regard, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III strongly urged parents, health workers, and local governments to fully participate in the synchronized polio vaccination.

READ: Half of Manila kids under 5 got polio vaccine

“It is the only way to stop the polio outbreak and to protect your child against this paralyzing disease,” he said. 

Aside from immunization, he reminded the public to practice good personal hygiene, wash their hands regularly, use toilets, drink safe water, and cook food thoroughly.

The DOH said one polio case was confirmed in a three-year-old girl from Lanao del Sur. 

Aside from the confirmed case, a suspected case of acute flaccid paralysis was awaiting confirmation. 

In addition, the poliovirus has been detected in samples taken from sewage in Manila and waterways in Davao as part of the regular environmental surveillance. 

The samples were tested by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and verified by the Japan National Institute for Infectious Diseases and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The DOH said a single confirmed polio case of vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (VDPV2) or two positive environmental samples that are genetically linked isolated in two different locations is considered an epidemic in a polio-free country.

DOH, in close coordination with local government units and concerned national agencies, and with the support of WHO, the United Nations Children’s Fund, and other partners, is preparing a rapid response to the polio outbreak. 

This includes a series of synchronized oral polio vaccinations to protect every child under the age of five years in areas at risk beginning in October 2019. 

The DOH is also working with partners to strengthen environmental and Acute Flaccid Paralysis surveillance throughout the country to detect poliovirus.

Polio is an infectious disease which spreads rapidly. It can cause paralysis and, on rare occasions, can be fatal. 

There is no cure for polio—it can only be prevented with multiple doses of polio vaccines that have long been proven safe and effective.

In a joint statement, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund raised concern that polioviruses were now circulating in Manila, Davao, and Lanao del Sur.

WHO Representative in the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said “WHO and UNICEF are working closely with the Department of Health to strengthen surveillance and swiftly respond to this outbreak. 

“We urge all parents and caregivers of children under five years of age to have them vaccinated so that they are protected against polio for life.”

Oyun Dendevnorov, UNICEF Philippines Representative, said “It is deeply disconcerting that poliovirus has re-emerged in the Philippines after nearly two decades. 

“The outbreak calls for urgent action to protect more children from being infected. It reminds us of the importance of increasing immunization coverage to 95 percent of children to stop poliovirus transmission in the Philippines. 

“Vaccination is the only and best protection against polio that mainly affects children under five years of age. As long as one single child remains infected, children across the country and even beyond are at risk of contracting polio.”

Prior to the declaration of the outbreak, the Department of Health and its partners launched a polio immunization campaign in the City of Manila. Further mass polio immunization rounds will be rolled out from October 2019.

READ: National polio vaccination drive kicks off in Manila

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is supporting the Philippine Government’s response, providing technical advice, on-the-ground monitoring and risk communication. 

The GPEI is a public-private partnership led by national governments with five partners—WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Its goal is to eradicate polio worldwide.

Local government action and advice to parents and caregivers WHO and UNICEF urge local governments to ensure that vaccination campaigns are planned and implemented effectively. Every community leader, religious leader and celebrity must mobilize their communities to participate in immunization activities.

Parents and caregivers are advised that the best protection for their children is vaccination. It takes multiple doses of polio vaccine to achieve full immunity against polio.

Topics: World Health Organization , polio-free , Department of Health , Francisco Duque III
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