PETALING JAYA: The first case of polio that was detected in Malaysia for more than 27 years in Tuaran, Sabah is genetically linked to poliovirus currently circulating in the southern Philippines, says the World Health Organisation (WHO).
WHO said that testing at its Regional Polio Reference Laboratory in Melbourne, Australia, on Dec 6 confirmed this.
It said the case of polio from Sabah is a rare strain of poliovirus called circulating vaccine-derived polio (cVDPV) Type 1 and that these polio viruses only occur if a population is seriously under-immunised.
The southern Philippines had declared an outbreak of polio on Sept 19,2019.
The patient, a three-month-old male child, developed fever and paralysis on Oct 26.
“We are deeply concerned about the confirmed case of polio in Sabah, ” Dr Ying-Ru Lo, WHO Representative in Malaysia, said in a statement Tuesday (Dec 10).
“WHO, alongside Unicef, stands ready to support the Health Ministry in responding to this outbreak and ensuring that all children in Malaysia receive the full protection of polio vaccines.
“The only effective way to protect children from polio is vaccination, '' said Unicef representative in Malaysia Marianne Clark-Hattingh.
“We must make it a priority to stop its transmission so that every child, regardless of their economic status or origin, is protected against this terrible disease, ” she added.
Polio spreads in populations with low immunisation coverage. The virus has the potential to cause paralysis or occasionally death.
WHO and Unicef have been providing technical advice on the outbreak response, on-the-ground monitoring and support for risk communication.
"Children are most at risk of polio. Parents and caregivers should ensure that all children under the age of 5 years are vaccinated.
"Polio vaccines are extremely safe and effective and have resulted in global cases decreasing by over 99%. Polio vaccines must be administered multiple times to stop outbreaks and protect children," said WHO.