Environmental samples in Manila, Davao tested positive for poliovirus | UNTV News
MANILA, Philippines - The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on Thursday expressed concern over the re-emergence of poliovirus in the Philippines 19 years after it was declared polio-free.
The Philippines' Department of Health (DOH) earlier announced an outbreak on polio after a case was confirmed in a 3-year old girl from Lanao del Sur. Environmental samples from sewage in Manila and waterways in Davao also tested positive for the poliovirus.READ: Public urged to join DOH vaccination program as polio re-emerges in PHL
"We are very concerned that polioviruses are now circulating in Manila, Davao, and Lanao del Sur," WHO Representative in the Philippines, Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said in a joint statement with UNICEF.
"It is deeply disconcerting that poliovirus has re-emerged in the Philippines after nearly two decades. The outbreak calls for urgent action to protect more children from being infected," UNICEF Philippines Representative Oyun Dendevnorov said.
The agencies said the polio outbreak in the Philippines is confirmed to be from a circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2.
This is of particular concern, as wild poliovirus type 2 was certified as globally eradicated in 2015, they added.
Polio mainly affects children under five years of age and vaccination is their only and best protection against the highly infectious disease.
But if immunization activities are poorly conducted and too few children have received the required three doses of polio vaccine, the agencies said this can leave them "susceptible to poliovirus, either from vaccine-derived or wild polioviruses."
"Full immunization protects them from both forms of the virus."
"It reminds us of the importance of increasing immunization coverage to 95% of children to stop polio virus transmission in the Philippines... As long as one single child remains infected, children across the country and even beyond are at risk of contracting polio," Dendevnorov said.
Prior to the declaration of the outbreak, the DOH and its partners launched a polio immunization campaign in the City of Manila. Further mass polio immunization rounds will be rolled out from October 2019.
The WHO and UNICEF both vowed to work closely with the DOH to strengthen surveillance and swiftly respond to the outbreak.
They also echoed the DOH's call for parents and guardians, especially in affected areas, to have their children vaccinated for their protection against diseases.
"We urge all parents and caregivers of children under 5 years of age to have them vaccinated so that they are protected against polio for life."
The WHO and UNICEF assured the oral polio vaccine (OPV) is a safe and effective vaccine that has saved millions of lives since its introduction in 1988.
The agencies explained that when a child is immunized with OPV, the weakened virus contained in the vaccine replicates in the intestine for a limited period, thereby developing immunity by building up antibodies.
If a population is not sufficiently immunized, the weakened virus can continue to circulate. The longer it is allowed to survive, the more changes it undergoes.
"In rare instances, the virus can change to a vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV), a form that has regained the ability to cause paralysis," they said.
The WHO and UNICEF likewise called on local governments to help ensure that immunization campaigns are planned and implemented effectively.
They also reminded families to practice good personal hygiene, wash their hands regularly with soap and water, use a toilet, consume food that is fully cooked, and drink safe water.
The two agencies are among the partner-organizations under the Global Polio Eradication initiative (GPEI) supporting the Philippine government's response by providing technical advice and on-the-ground monitoring and risk communication.
The GPEI is a public-private partnership led by national governments with the WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UNICEF, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Its goal is to eradicate polio worldwide.
Highlights Between 1 July and 27 August 2019, 4 environmental samples tested positive for Vaccine Derived Poliovirus Type 1 (VDPV1) from Tondo (Manila). No genetic linkage was found with any other known VDPV1,
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