KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 11 — The village in Tuaran, Sabah, where a polio outbreak occurred, reportedly lacks a proper sewage system and is a migrant settlement.
Free Malaysia Today (FMT) quoted Kampung Damat resident, Rozairi Hashim, as saying many house owners in the Tamparuli town in Tuaran, northeast of Kota Kinabalu, have to dig up pits to manage their bodily wastes.
Rozairi, however, reportedly said that all residents in Kampung Damat are supplied with treated water.
Polio, a very contagious disease which typically affects children below five years of age, is transmitted by person-to-person mainly through the faecal-oral route. The virus can contaminate food and water in unsanitary conditions, according to the US’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and Unicef have since said that the specific strain of poliovirus that the three-month-old Sabahan boy contracted — which came from the Philippines — only occurs if a population is seriously under-immunised.
The Sabahan infant previously received a dose of the polio vaccine, but fell ill before the second dose could be administered, health officials said, adding that he and his family have no history of travelling.
The case comes 19 years after Malaysia was declared polio-free in 2000, and 27 years after the last case in 1992. The Philippines, which is near Sabah, reported the 8th polio case last November 25. It last had polio in 1993.
Meanwhile, the FMT report quoted other residents in Kampung Damat as saying that the boy who contracted polio comes from a migrant settlement called Kampung Baru inside their village, claiming they heard this from health officials.
Saimin Samitah reportedly said the settlement emerged about 10 years ago with residents from Kampung Pondo of Pulau Gaya. Kampung Pondo was declared illegal in 2006 on suspicion of residents there being involved in criminal activities.
“Maybe some of them had just arrived in Sabah from the Philippines, where the polio outbreak had been detected,” he was reported as saying.
Rozairi, on the other hand, shot down a claim by the Ministry of Health (MOH) that children in Kampung Damat are not immunised, pointing out that the closest medical facility is five minutes away in Tamparuli town.
MOH deputy director-general of health (public health) Dr Chong Chee Kheong previously said that MOH has vaccinated all children under the age of 15 in that Sabah village.
Prior to this, MOH said 12.3 per cent of children aged between two months and 15 years living in the area of the polio patient in Sabah, or 25 out of 205 people, did not receive the polio vaccine. All of them are non-Malaysians.
The vaccination programme in Malaysia is free of charge at all government health care facilities for Malaysians, while a nominal fee is charged for non-Malaysians.
Patients who come to MOH health care facilities — be they stateless or undocumented — will be able to receive treatment and vaccination, MOH has assured.