The Department of Health declared a polio outbreak in the country after it traced a case of the disease in Lanao del Sur, Thursday.
The Philippines has been polio-free for 19 years until DOH confirmed on Saturday, September 14 that a 3-year-old girl had the disease and “now apparently well but with residual paralysis.”
“The result of [the girl’s stool exam showed vaccine-derive poliovirus (VDPV) type 2, and the child was unvaccinated against polio,” DOH Epidemiology Bureau Director Ferchito Avelino said.
DOH added it is suspecting an acute flaccid paralysis case also awaiting confirmation.
“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,” DOH said.
The DOH noted there is “no cure for polio” and that “it can only be prevented with multiple doses of polio vaccines that have long been proven safe and effective.”
Polio outbreak due to Dengvaxia scare
Earlier, DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III warned the public that the Philippines is at “high risk for poliovirus transmission” as oral polio vaccine (OPV) coverage decreased in the past years.
“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,” Duque said.
The drop in polio immunization was traced back to the Dengvaxia vaccine scare in 2017. The government approved the school-based dengue vaccination in 2015. As of today, there are 145 deaths (142 children and three adults) allegedly caused by Dengvaxia.
DOH urged parents to have their children, especially those below five years old to have the anti-polio vaccine.
“It is the only way to stop the polio outbreak and to protect your child against this paralyzing disease,” it said.
“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,” it added.
Poliovirus is a highly contagious disease that can affect the nervous system.
Polio symptoms include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiff neck and sudden onset of floppy arms or legs. It can lead to permanent paralysis or worse, death.