Polio Re-emerges After 19 Years Of Presumed Extinction

MANILA, Philippines — On Thursday, September 19, 2019, DOH confirmed that poliomyelitis, which was reportedly annihilated on the face of the earth in 2000, had resurfaced in the country. 

The first recorded polio case after 19 years

The DOH sait that the paralyzing disease was confirmed in a 3-year-old girl from Lanao del Sur while the virus was also detected in the waterways of Davao and sewage samples in Manila. 

The polio strains identified in Lanao del Sur, Manila and Davao are all vaccine-derived polioviruses. These are strains that have genetically mutated from the weakened wild poliovirus type 2 found inside the oral polio vaccine. 

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“A single confirmed polio case of vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 or two positive environmental samples that are genetically linked isolated in two different locations is considered an epidemic in a polio-free country,” the agency said.

Polio is incurable and fatal yet preventable

According to the CDC, Polio is “a crippling and potentially deadly infectious disease. The virus spreads from person to person and can invade an infected person’s brain and spinal cord, causing paralysis.” The only way to protect children from both vaccine-derived or wild forms of the poliovirus is through immunization.

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The country’s Republic Act 10152 or the Mandatory Infants and Children Health Immunization Act of 2011 mandates that all government hospitals and health centers should “provide basic immunization services for infants and children” for free.  

The basic immunization covers the following preventable diseases:

  • Tuberculosis
  • Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (DTP)
  • Poliomyelitis (OPV)
  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • Rubella or German measles
  • Hepatitis-B
  • Influenza Type B (HIB)

The link between Dengvaxia scare and polio re-emergence

According to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, the country was at “high risk for poliovirus transmission” due to a decrease in oral polio vaccine (OPV) coverage in the past few years. 

The controversial anti-dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia, which allegedly caused various complications and deaths in children contributed to the decline of OPV immunization as the public loses trust in vaccines.

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“In 2018, the vaccine coverage for the third dose of OPV was 66 percent. This figure is below the 95 percent target required to ensure that the whole population is protected against polio,” he said.

Synchronized oral polio immunization to ‘stop polio outbreak’

To prevent the spread of the poliovirus, the DOH is launching a synchronized oral polio immunization next month and parents are urged to have their children vaccinated especially those under the age of five. Duque said that “it is the only way to stop the polio outbreak and to protect your child against this paralyzing disease.”

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“Aside from immunization, we remind the public to practice good personal hygiene, wash their hands regularly, use toilets, drink safe water, and cook food thoroughly,” Duque added. 

Source: ABS-CBN News