EV-71 is the ‘new polio,’ health experts warn

Two cases of enterovirus were found in the Philippines, but the health department says it's not similar to the fatal strain discovered in Cambodia

MANILA, Philippines – Two children in the Philippines have been tested positive for “human enterovirus,” but the strain is not similar to the EV-71 that has killed kids in Cambodia, the Department of Health said Tuesday, July 17.

A total of 7 Filipino children have shown signs of the hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) which can be caused by EV-71 or Coxsackievirus. Of the 7, DOH said, two showed they had “human enterovirus.”

But Health Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag clarified that this “is not the same as EV-71 since there are many types of human enterovirus.” Tayag said EV-71 is just one of them, and that it’s premature to have the kids immediately tested for EV-71. They are still under observation and will have to undergo other screenings, he added.

International disease experts, however, have expressed concern that EV-71, which killed close to 52 children in Cambodia, may replace the polio virus as a public health concern.

Tayag noted that just like polio, EV-71 is a debilitating disease that affects the brain or the nervous system, thus leading to paralysis and deformation of limbs.

Because of this, he claimed that experts are worried that while the world is on its way to eradicating polio, EV-71 might become the new public health issue. “EV-71 is the new polio,” he told reporters.

There are only four countries – Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Nigeria – that have not eradicated polio. The Philippines was declared polio-free by the World Health Organization in 2000.

Severe form

Tayag explained that while EV-71 cases have been present in the country, they are not like Cambodia’s type of EV-71, which is fatal.

A joint report of the WHO and the Ministry of Health of Cambodia last week showed that a “severe form” of HFMD caused the cause of the illness of 78 children in Cambodia.

Tayag said there is no treatment for EV-71. “There is no antibiotic because it is a virus.  It causes dehydration,” he added.

He underscored the need for adults who tend to children to strictly observe personal hygiene and sanitation. – Rappler.com