Healthy Child Tests Positive For Polio In Semporna

The World Health Organization (WHO) has supplied Malaysia 2.5 million oral polio vaccine doses.

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 28 — A healthy asymptomatic three-year-old has tested positive for the polio virus in Semporna, Sabah, through targeted healthy children sampling.

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a statement today five samples of untreated water in Semporna and Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, have also tested positive for the polio virus.

The three confirmed polio cases detected last year consist of a three-month-old in Tuaran, an eight-year-old in Sandakan, and an 11-year-old from Kinabatangan, all of which are in Sabah.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has supplied Malaysia 2.5 million oral polio vaccine doses to vaccinate over a million children in Sabah after last year’s outbreak.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) announced that it received the monovalent oral polio vaccine type 2 (mOPV2) from the WHO’s vaccines stockpile — which is overseen by the WHO’s sister agency Unicef — yesterday.

The vaccines are additional vaccines to the bivalent oral polio vaccines (bOPV) that Malaysian health officials are currently administering in Sabah for both Malaysian and foreign children below five years. The use of mOPV2 and bOPV will protect children and curb the spread of the virus to other children.

Malaysia has stopped using oral polio vaccines (OPV) since 2008 and instead adopted the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV), which is administered through injections, and is cheaper.

In a joint statement with the WHO, Unicef, and MOH, Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah pledged to work alongside the two United Nations agencies in containing the polio outbreak in Sabah until it is over.

“All children under the age of 13 will be given both types of OPV, regardless of their immunisation status,” he said, adding that the OPV vaccine is safe and needs to be administered several times for optimal results.

Therefore, all parents, caretakers, preschools, and schools, are advised to make sure that their children and students receive OPV immunisation, he said.

Polio, which mainly affects children below five years of age, invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in hours. There is no cure for polio, but it can be prevented through vaccination.

Malaysia’s immunisation campaign in Sabah is currently on full swing, Dr Noor Hisham added, as mobile teams and government clinics ramp up efforts to treat and screen children for polio.

The federal government has also released additional allocations for the campaign to be carried out, he noted.

The WHO has since urged Malaysia to declare a national public health emergency over its polio outbreak, 27 years after the country’s last case in 1992, and 19 years after Malaysia was declared polio-free in 2000.

Malaysia’s stance is that this is unnecessary, with then-Deputy Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye saying MOH was hopeful of containing polio from spreading in the country.

MOH is also firm on its stance of not making vaccination compulsory for the time being, so long as the national immunisation programme is underway, and was last year reported to be mulling the matter.

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