Petaling Jaya—The first polio case in Malaysia in 30 years was confirmed on Sunday, December 8—a three-month-old baby boy who is now being treated at an isolation ward in a hospital in Tuaran, Sabah.
The infant was hospitalised last week due to fever and weakness in his arms and legs, and is now in stable condition but requires respiratory support, according to a report from The Star.
In a statement, Malaysia’s Health Ministry confirmed that the infant indeed has polio. He was infected with the vaccine-derived poliovirus type 1 (VDPV1) on December 6, said Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah. This type is classified as a circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV) type 1.
The last time that Malaysia reported a polio case was in 1992 and the country was declared polio-free in 2000.
According to the statement from Dr Noor Hisham, “The cVDPV originates from a poliovirus that has been weakened in the polio vaccine which is administered orally.
The weakened virus is later excreted from the body through the faeces. However, in an unsanitary environment, the virus can infect others who have not been immunised against polio and will spread in communities whose polio immunisation rates are less than 95%.
The longer the virus spreads in the community, it will undergo genetic mutation until it once again becomes an active virus.”
The Health director-general, however, assured the public that individuals who have received the polio vaccine are protected from becoming infected.
He added that upon an investigation of the surroundings where the baby is from in Sabah, it was discovered that for the youth from the ages of 2 months to 15 years, 23 out of 199 residents had received the polio vaccine.
“This is a frustrating situation because the circulation of a cVDPV can only end with polio immunisation. After explaining the importance of polio immunisation, the parents of all such children have agreed to have them vaccinated.”
Teams have been sent out to the area to survey for the occurrence of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP)—which is when a person suffers from muscle weakness in breathing and swallowing, Dr Noor Hisham said, and as of last Thursday, December 5, 646 individuals had been examined, with no symptoms of AFP detected.
The Health Ministry will continue to administer vaccinations, he added.
“To ensure that the polio virus does not continue to spread in Malaysia and infect those who are not immunised, vaccinations will be continued in the living area of this case and will be expanded to other risk areas.”
According to the test results of the child’s case, the virus is linked genetically to the poliovirus recently detected in the Philippines, which had a polio outbreak last September.
Anyone showing symptoms of AFP should seek treatment right away, he said. Anyone who knows of such cases should also tell the Health Ministry as soon as possible.
“The success in eradicating the disease previously was due to prevention efforts through the polio vaccination which was introduced in the National Immunisation Programme in 1972.
The programme was made even more effective when the vaccine was changed from being administered orally to being administered through injection.” -/TISG