public health

WHO declares end of polio outbreak in Philippines

Bonz Magsambol

File photo of polio mass vaccination ion Quezon City


The containment of polio in the Philippines is a 'major win for public health,' says the World Health Organization

After nearly two years, the polio outbreak in the Philippines that reemerged in September 2019 is over.

World Health Organization (WHO) Representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe made the announcement in a press briefing on Friday, June 11.

Abeyasinghe said that the containment of polio in the country is a “major win for public health” and an “excellent example of what collective efforts can attain, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

On September 19, 2020, the Department of Health (DOH) declared a polio epidemic after it recorded a case of the disease in Lanao del Sur. This was the country’s first confirmed case after 19 years of being polio-free.

From 2019 to 2020, during the time of the outbreak, the Philippines had 17 cases of polio. No deaths were recorded.

The country was declared polio-free since October 2000, with the last case of poliovirus reported in 1993.

The DOH had said that the Philippines was at “high risk” of poliovirus transmission after Manila’s sewage showed two samples that tested positive for poliovirus. 

Polio or poliomyelitis is a highly contagious disease caused by poliovirus invading the nervous system. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiff neck, and 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.

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The announcement comes as the country and the rest of word is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic that has so far infected over 175 million people globally and has killed 3.7 million.


The DOH said that vaccination played a key role in eradicating the polio outbreak in the Philippines.

The DOH reported that a total of 30 million doses of polio vaccines have been administered since 2019 while 11 million children have been vaccinated against the virus. –

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.