Health News: DOH declares polio epidemic in the country

Health News: DOH declares polio epidemic in the country

The Department of Health (DOH) declared a polio epidemic in the Philippines, after recording the country’s first case of the debilitating disease in 19 years.

According to Rappler, an unvaccinated 3-year old girl from Lanao Del Sur tested positive for polio.

"The result of [the girl's stool exam showed vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV) type 2, and the child was unvaccinated against polio," DOH Epidemiology Bureau Director Ferchito Avelino said, Saturday, September 14. 

Less than a week later, the DOH confirmed another case in a 5-year old boy from Laguna, bringing the total number of people afflicted to two. The boy reportedly showed early signs of paralysis. He has since been able to walk, but is still being closely monitored for residual symptoms.

Former Philippine Society of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (PSMID) president Rontgene Solante explained to PhilStar that the recent infections were caused by the mutation of the previously eradicated virus, which can emerge in countries with poor immunization and sanitation.


The DOH reported that they also found environmental samples that tested positive to vaccine-derived poliovirus in Manila and Davao.

The two cases and two environmental samples were enough for Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to declare a polio epidemic in the country.

The DOH and the World Health Organization (WHO) strongly urged the public to get vaccinated as it’s the only cure for the disease.

"We continue to urge parents and caregivers of children below 5 years old, health workers, and local chief executives to take part in the synchronized polio vaccination to be scheduled in their communities," Duque said.

Poliomyelitis, or polio, as it’s commonly called, is described by the WHO as a highly infectious virus that affects mostly young children. It is transmitted when the stool of an infected person makes contact with another person through contaminated water and food. Once inside a person’s system, the virus multiplies in the intestine, from where it invades the nervous system and cause paralysis.

Symptoms for polio virus infection include sore throat, fever, tiredness, nausea, headache, and stomach pain, which could last anywhere between 2 to 5 days before going away on their own.

In a smaller proportion of cases, however, the symptoms could be more serious such as paresthesia, which is the feeling of pins and needles in the legs; meningitis, which is an infection of the covering of the spinal cord; or worse, paralysis, which can lead to permanent disability or death.

It’s important to emphasize that there is no cure for polio. The best way to protect children against the virus is to make sure they don’t get it in the first place. This is, of course, done by getting them all the recommended doses of vaccine.


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