DOH confirms 4 more cases of polio in PH

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday, January 16, confirmed 4 more cases of polio or poliomyelitis since an outbreak was announced in September 2019. (READ: EXPLAINER: What is polio?)

The new cases of the disease, announced over two months after successful rounds of catchup vaccination in the National Capital Region (NCR) and Mindanao, were found in the following children: two boys aged two and three from Maguindanao, a 2-year-old boy from Sultan Kudarat, and a 3 year-old boy from Quezon City. 

The DOH said the children manifested "fever, diarrhea, muscle pain, asymmetric ascending paralysis ,and weakness of extremities."

This new report marks the first case of the disease in NCR months after samples of sewage water from the region tested positive for poliovirus types 1 or 2. Among the 8 earlier cases, 7 were in Mindanao, and one in Laguna. 

In response, the DOH is extending its catchup vaccination campaign in NCR and Mindanao. 

For Metro Manila, two additional rounds are set for:

For all regions in Mindanao, 3 additional rounds are set for:

In October 2019, the DOH said the initial vaccination rounds had been successful, with the agency reaching at least 95.4% or roughly 1.7 million of the 1.8 million kids aged 5 and below who were eyed to receive the oral polio vaccine (OPV). With the confirmation of the new cases, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III urged parents and caregivers to take part in the catchup vaccination rounds. 

"Have your children, including those with private physicians or pediatricians, vaccinated with OPV by health workers and bakunators. Additional polio doses can provide additional protection to your children. There is no overdose with the OPV,” Duque said. 

The health chief also reminded local health facilities to religiously report cases of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP). AFP, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) is “a sudden onset of paralysis or weakness in any part of the body of a child less than 15 years of age.” The WHO says AFP surveillance is important as it helps “detect paralytic poliomyelitis due to wild poliovirus transmission in [a given] population.”

Polio is a highly contagious disease caused by poliovirus invading the nervous system. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiff neck, and the sudden onset of floppy arms or legs. In severe cases, it can lead to permanent paralysis or even death. Children under 5 years of age are most vulnerable to the disease.

The Philippines declared a polio epidemic in September 2019, after it recorded a case of the disease in Lanao del Sur – the country's first confirmed case after 19 years of being polio-free. (READ: Eradicating polio: Almost there but not quite)