Health officials in Philippines have declared a polio outbreak in the country on September 19, 2019. The outbreak has been declared nearly two decades after the World Health Organization had declared it to be free of the highly contagious and potentially deadly disease. Health Secretary Francisco Duque III at a news conference said that the authorities have confirmed at least one case of polio in a 3-year old girl in southern Lanao del Sur province.
The polio virus was detected in sewage in Manila and in waterways in the southern Davao region. Such findings are enough to declare an outbreak of the crippling disease in a previously polio-free country like the Philippines. Deep concern has been expressed by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund over the polio’s reemergence in the country and said that they would support the government in immunizing children, who are most vulnerable.
Oyun Dendevnorov, the UNICEF Philippines representative said, “As long as one single child remains infected, children across the country and even beyond are at risk of contracting polio.” The World Health Organization and the UNICEF in a joint statement said that the polio outbreak in the Philippines is concerning as it is cause by vaccine-derived polio-virus type 2. The weakened virus, that is used in the vaccines for a short period of time in the children’s intestines and is excreted in their feces. In very rare cases, they have said that the weakened virus can strengthen in areas with poor sanitation and hygiene.
Children who have not been properly immunized are vulnerable. The last known case from the wild strain of the virus in the Philippines was in 1993. The Wild poliovirus type 2 was declared as globally eradicated in 2015. So far there is no known cure for polio and can only be prevented with vaccines. Duque assured that his department will launch a mass vaccination campaign in October, for children under the age of 5.
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