KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia reported its first polio case in nearly three decades today, after a three-month-old boy from Tuaran, Sabah was confirmed with the disease on Friday.
Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah regretfully announced the resurgence of the highly infectious viral disease in Malaysia today, 27 years after it was eradicated.
“The infant who was admitted with a high fever is in the intensive care unit in a hospital and he is confirmed as being infected with vaccine-derived poliovirus type 1 (VDPV1) on Friday.”
He said lab tests by the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that the virus has a genetic affiliation with the polio virus that was traced in the Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) case in the Philippines.
“The patient is still being treated in the isolation ward and is stable. But he still needs help with breathing, we hope the public and the media will not disturb the health personnel in the hospital while their doing their job and treating the disease,” said Dr Noor Hisham while declining to name the facility the child was at.
He said VDPV1 is from "circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus" or from the polio virus which has been weakened by the polio vaccine and is disposed from the human body through feces.
“In unsanitary surroundings it can infect others who do not have immunity towards polio and spread in communities where immunization is under 95 per cent. It genetically mutates and becomes active, aggravated by the length of time it spreads in the community.
“This virus is called VDPV and can cause poliomyelitis. Those who have been vaccinated for poliomyelitis will however be protected from infection.”
Dr Noor Hisham further said that the search for AFP cases, a proxy to polio, was done at the child’s residential area.
“Until Dec 5, 646 people were tested and none with AFP were found. Investigations are however ongoing by taking stool samples from those who were in close contact with the child as well. We are also taking samples from the area’s surroundings."
He said that for now the Health Ministry would continue vaccination exercises in the area and other risk areas to ensure that immunization is above the rate of 95 per cent.
Dr Noor Hisham reminded Malaysians that polio spreads through the fecal oral route and urged the public to get treatment at health facilities if they display AFP symptoms.
Malaysia's last polio case was in 1992, before it was declared polio-free in 2000 together with other Western Pacific region countries.