Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Thursday his department would intensify its vaccination campaign against polio after confirming the re-emergence of the disease in the country.
“Polio is re-emerging in the country, 19 years after the Philippines has been declared polio-free by the World Health Organization in 2000. Polio is an infectious disease, which spreads rapidly, causing paralysis and on rare occasions can be fatal,” Duque said.
He reported one confirmed case of polio, a three-year-old from Lanao del Sur, and a suspected case of acute flaccid paralysis, which is awaiting confirmation.
He added that the polio virus 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 were verified by the Japan National Institute for Infectious Diseases and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“A single confirmed polio case of a vaccine-derived polio virus type or two positive environmental samples that are genetically linked and isolated in two different locations is considered an epidemic in a polio-free country,” Duque said.
In response, he said, the Department of Health (DOH) is in close coordination with the local government units, national agencies, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in implementing a series of synchronized oral polio vaccinations to protect every child under five years old.
“The polio vaccinations in the National Capital Region, Davao City and Lanao del Sur will commence on October 14. We’re just preparing all the logistics and vaccines supply,” he added.
WHO Country Representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe said the organization stands with the DOH in responding to the polio outbreak.
“We, together with the UNICEF, have fully prepared to help the Philippine government to strengthen the surveillance and swiftly respond to the situation,” Abeyasinghe added.
Meanwhile, UNICEF Country Representative Oyun Dendevnorov said that vaccination is the only and best protection against polio among young children.
“As long as one single child remains infected, children across the country, and even beyond, are at risk of contracting polio,” Dendevnorov said.
Duque reminded the public that good personal hygiene is another effective way to combat polio apart from immunization.
“Wash your hands regularly, and handwashing for about 20 seconds. Use toilets, drink safe water, and cook your food thoroughly,” he added. (Ma. Teresa Montemayor/PNA)