Polio case area under watch


  • Nation
  • Tuesday, 10 Dec 2019

PUTRAJAYA: The Health Ministry is looking out for symptoms of Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP), which shares the features of poliomyelitis, at the surrounding areas of the three-month-old boy’s house in Tuaran, Sabah, who was infected with polio, 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. No cases of AFP were found.

“We will investigate all symptoms of paralysis,” he said during the ministry’s Innovation Day celebration here yesterday.

The Malaysian boy was admitted to the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit after experiencing fever and weakness of the limbs and was confirmed to be infected with the 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 reoccurence 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 area as possible including marginalised groups such as the Orang Asli, and the stateless.

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

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

In a press statement, Dzulkefly said oral polio vaccine (OPV) was given from 1972 in Malaysia and was changed to an injectible 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 inactivated polio virus,” he said.

On other efforts to contain the spread of polio, Dzulkefly said 14 stool samples have been taken from close contacts of the patient and the results would be available in seven days.

He also said two environmental samples at the housing area of the case and one from the district have been taken to be investigated for the presence of polio virus. The results will be made available in three weeks.

Meanwhile, continuous surveillance of polio virus in the environment was also being done through sewage sampling at six water treatment plants in Sabah and no wild or vaccine-derived polio virus was detected.

Immunisation activity is being carried out at the housing area to increase coverage and as at Dec 7, 25 out of 205 (12.3%) children aged two months to 15 years had been immunised.

“All these children are non-Malaysians and were vaccinated upon detection,” he said, adding that vaccination activities were being carried out at all risk areas.

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