Polio returns to Malaysia after Philippines declares an epidemic

Bloomberg Kuala Lumpur | Updated on December 12, 2019

Representative image   -  The Hindu

The Philippines, which lies across a narrow sea from Sabah, declared a polio outbreak in Septembe

Malaysia has confirmed its first case of polio in almost three decades. This has sparked fears that the disease is spreading across the region after the Philippines declared an epidemic in September.

A test by the World Health Organisation (WHO) found that the virus, detected in a three-month-old boy from the eastern state of Sabah, is linked to the one found in the Philippines, according to Malaysia’s health ministry. The last polio case in Malaysia was in 1992. In 2000, the country had declared itself free of the crippling and potentially fatal disease.

The Philippines, which lies across a narrow sea from Sabah, declared an outbreak in September. The WHO has confirmed at least nine cases in the country this year.

Malaysia, following a similar move by the Philippines, is embarking on an aggressive immunisation drive to prevent the virus from spreading further. The Health Ministry issued public notices and held seminars to encourage parents to vaccinate their children, calling it a sign of true love and citing an Islamic religious leader who said its a sin not to ensure children are protected from preventable diseases.

The strain detected in Sabah came from a weakened polio virus used in vaccines, which could infect those without immunity in unsanitary conditions, the ministry said. It found that 12 per cent of children age 2 months through 15 years in the affected area were not vaccinated.

Published on December 12, 2019

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