KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 10 — The Health Ministry today announced two new polio patients in Sabah, bringing the total number of registered polio cases in Malaysia to three.
Both new cases involved foreign children below the ages of 12, who initially experienced difficulty in walking, were feverish, and were later hospitalised. Living in Kinabatangan and Sandakan, neither boy aged 11 and eight years respectively had been previously vaccinated.
Their stool samples were later sent to the World Health Organization Polio Regional Reference Laboratory (WHO Polio RRL) in Melbourne, Australia, for confirmatory tests and genetic sequencing. The samples were found to be positive for the polio virus.
All patients are in hospital, are being treated and in stable condition.
The WHO Polio RRL also confirmed that the polio virus strain involved in these three cases had genetic similarities with the cases emerging in the south of the Philippines.
“The Polio Coordination Meeting in Sabah chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister, who is also the chair of the National Disaster Management Committee, decided on 31 December 2019 that the National Security Council and the Ministry of Health form a national-level working committee and state-level working committees to handle this polio outbreak,” Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a statement.
“The meeting also decided to strengthen international cooperation, such as with the Philippines’ Health Ministry, and collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) to ensure an improvement in the immunisation of Filipino children living in Sabah.”
Dr Noor Hisham did not state if Malaysia would follow the World Health Organization’s (WHO) advice to declare a national public health emergency over polio.
To date, around 705 people in the areas where the two boys live, have been screened and there are no other cases found thus far.
A total of 65 children were also found to have defaulted or dropped out of their immunisations. They were later provided with a combination vaccine which protects against diphtheria, lockjaw, whooping cough, bacterial meningitis and polio.
The first polio case in Malaysia reported last month, almost three decades after the last reported case in 1992, involved a three-month-old Malaysian baby boy living in Tuaran, Sabah, whose virus also had genetic links with polio cases in the neighbouring Philippines.
Unlike the two new cases that involved unvaccinated children, the first polio patient previously received a dose of the polio vaccine, but fell ill before the second dose could be administered.