KUCHING: The type of polio virus contracted by a three-month old boy in Sabah has been confirmed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) to be the same virus that broke out and is spreading in southern Philippines.
Citing a press statement issued by the two organisations, the Malay Mail reported today that the boy from Tuaran had contracted a rare strain called circulating vaccine-derived polio (cVDPV) Type 1.
“These polio viruses only occur if a population is seriously under-immunised,” they said in a the press statement.
“The virus has the potential to cause paralysis or occasionally death,” they added.
They said confirmation of the type of virus was based on testing conducted by the WHO’s Regional Polio Reference Laboratory in Melbourne, Australia on December 6-10 after the boy developed fever and paralysis.
The Philippines declared a polio outbreak on September 19, WHO and Unicef pointed out, noting that Malaysia’s last case was 27 years ago in 1992.
Yesterday, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said it was suspected that the virus infecting the boy was brought into Sabah from the Philippines as the infant’s family members had not travelled overseas.
WHO and Unicef, meanwhile, said they have been assisting Malaysia with technical advice on the outbreak response, on-the-ground monitoring and support for risk communication.
The two bodies advised parents and guardians to ensure their children, especially those under five years old who are at highest risk, to get the full number of vaccination shots for full protection.
They gave an assurance that polio vaccines are very safe and are the main reason for 99 per cent of the reduction of cases worldwide.
“The only effective way to protect children from polio is vaccination,” Unicef representative in Malaysia, Marianne Clark-Hattingh, said in the same statement.
“We must make it a priority to stop its transmission so that every child, regardless of their economic status or origin, is protected against this terrible disease,” she added.
Dr Dzulkefly had also said yesterday that the baby started showing symptoms of the virus infection before getting his second vaccination.