Polio: Malaysia reports first case of polio in 27 years

Malaysia on map
Malaysia on map

Health authorities in Malaysia have confirmed the first case of polio in the country, 27 years after the disease has been absent.

The Malaysian Health Ministry’s director-general, Noor Hisham, announced on Sunday that the disease was diagnosed in a three-month-old baby on Borneo Island.

According to ChannelsTv, Mr Abdullah said the baby from Tuaran in Eastern Sabah State had been admitted into intensive care after experiencing fever and muscle weakness.

Mr Hisham said the toddler was diagnosed with circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 1 (cVDPV 1) on Friday and is currently undergoing treatment in an isolation ward.

He said the baby is in a stable condition but needs respiratory support.

Polio is a highly infectious viral disease that has no cure and can only be prevented with several doses of oral and injectable vaccines. It affects the nervous system and spinal cord and can be fatal in rare cases.

Over the past three decades, the world has made great strides in the battle against polio. The World Health Organisation said only 33 cases were reported worldwide last year.

This news is also coming at a time when Nigeria and Africa begin the verification process to be certified polio-free continent

Polio free

Malaysia was declared polio-free in 2000. The last case in the country occurred in 1992. The Malaysia diagnosis is coming four months after the The Philippines, which shares a close sea border with Sabah, was hit by its first polio case after nearly two decades.

Mr Hisham said test results showed that the Malaysian child was infected with a strain that shared genetic links to the virus detected in the Philippines.

cVDPV 1 originates from poor immunization culture. The weakened poliovirus is often excreted in a child feaces into the environment. This can spread to other children with no immunization against the disease.

Mr Hisham said an investigation showed that 23 out of 199 children aged two months to 15-years-old in the area where the case was discovered, or 11.6 percent, were not vaccinated.

“This is a concerning situation as the spread of cVPDV can only be stopped through polio immunisation.

“As a result of explanation to parents about the importance of polio immunisation, all of the children’s parents have agreed to be given polio vaccination,” he said.

He said vaccination efforts will also be done in high-risk areas.

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