Health Ministry actively screening people in areas surrounding polio case

  • Nation
  • Monday, 09 Dec 2019

PUTRAJAYA: The Health Ministry has been actively looking out for symptoms of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP), which shares features of poliomyelitis, in surrounding areas of the house of the three-month-old boy infected with polio in Tuaran, Sabah, says Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad.

The Health Minister said that to contain the spread of the infection, the ministry has screened 661 people until Dec 7 in that area and no cases of AFP were found.

"We will investigate all symptoms of paralysis," he said in a press conference during the ministry's Innovation Day celebration here on Monday (Dec 9).

On Sunday (Dec 8), it was reported that the Malaysian boy had been admitted into a hospital's intensive care unit after experiencing fever and weakness of limbs before being confirmed to be infected with vaccine-derived poliovirus type 1 (VDPV1) on Dec 6.

The last polio case in Malaysia occurred in 1992, and in 2000, the country was declared polio free.

Dzulkefly said that the re-occurrence of polio was disappointing as the vaccination programme in Malaysia is free of charge at all government healthcare facilities for Malaysians while a nominal fee is charged for non-Malaysians.

The national vaccination schedule provides four doses of inactivated polio vaccine together with diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus and haemophilus influenza B given to children.

Asked if mandatory immunisation will be imposed on all children for preventable infectious diseases, Dzulkefly said discussions were ongoing but for now, the ministry will intensify all National Immunisation Programme efforts and cover as much areas as possible, including marginalised groups such as the Orang Asli, and stateless communities.

Asked if the boy was vaccinated, Deputy Health director-general Datuk Dr Chong Chee Kheong said he was vaccinated with the first dose but just before the second dose and it was not enough to fully protect the child.

Dzulkefly said that one can get infected when herd immunity was not achieved.

In a press statement, Dzulkefly said that oral polio vaccine (OPV) was given from 1972 in Malaysia and was changed to an injectable vaccine (IPV) in 2008. OPV was discontinued in 2016.

He assured that there were no vaccine-derived polio cases before this and all those that were reported in the past were due to wild poliovirus.

"The ministry would like to stress that IPV did not cause this vaccine-derived poliovirus as it contains inactivate polio virus," he said.

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