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First Polio Case After 27 Years
Dec 09, 2019
Polio has long been absent in Malaysia, but it is now (sadly) back.
For the first time in 27 years, a polio case has been confirmed here.
According to the Health Ministry, a three-month-old Malaysian boy from Tuaran, Sabah was admitted into a hospital's Intensive Care Unit. This came about after he started suffering from fever and weak limbs, and the boy was confirmed to be infected with the potentially deadly and contagious disease on 6 December.
The last known case of polio in the country had been in 1992, said health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, and Malaysia was said to be polio-free in 2000.
"The patient is currently undergoing treatment in an isolation ward and is in stable condition but needs respiratory support," Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said, adding that the vaccine-derived poliovirus type 1 is classified as a circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV) type 1.
"The cVDPV originates from a poliovirus that has been weakened by the orally-administered polio vaccine.
Those who have been vaccinated will be protected from infection. The weakened virus has been excreted from the body through the faeces. However, in unsanitary environments, the virus can infect others who have not been immunised against polio and will thus spread in communities whose polio immunisation rates are less than 95%. The longer the virus spreads in the community, it will undergo genetic mutation until it once again becomes an active virus," he said.
According to Dr Noor Hisham, tests found that the virus has genetic links to the polio virus outbreak which occurred in the Philippines in September this year.
Up till 5 December, investigations at the vicinity of the polio-infected child's residence revealed that 23 out of 199 people between two months to 15 years of age did not receive the polio vaccine.
"This is a frustrating situation because the circulation of a cVDPV can only end with a polio immunisation. After explaining the importance of polio immunisation, the parents of the children have agreed to have them vaccinated," he said. Such a huge relief!
Cautionary measures will be taken by means of conducting surveillance for acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) (characterised by weakness of the muscles of respiration and swallowing) in the area.
646 people were checked, and none of them have displayed symptoms of AFP as of 5 December. We can only hope no one else has been affected.
"To ensure that the polio virus does not continue to spread in Malaysia and infect those who are not immunised, vaccination activities will be continued in the area of this case and will be expanded to other risk areas," said Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.
The public is urged to quickly seek treatment should they have the aforementioned symptoms and alert the Health Ministry if they hear of other cases.
"The success in eradicating the disease previously was due to prevention efforts through the polio vaccination which was introduced in the National Immunisation Programme in 1972. The programme was made even more effective when the vaccine was changed from being administered orally to being administered through injection," he said.
Polio, or poliomyelitis, is a potentially deadly infectious disease caused by the poliovirus, and can cause paralysis by invading a person's brain and spinal cord.
The disease has no cure and can only be prevented through vaccination.
By: Celestine Foo