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Labs confirm 1st new case of polio in Philippines in 26 years

By
Clyde Hughes
A child is vaccinated for the poliovirus. The ailment mostly affects children under 5 years of age. File Photo by Hossein Fatemi/UPI
A child is vaccinated for the poliovirus. The ailment mostly affects children under 5 years of age. File Photo by Hossein Fatemi/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 19 (UPI) -- Nearly two decades after the World Health Organization declared polio eradicated in the Philippines, the malady has returned in a new outbreak, officials said Thursday.

The Philippines health department said one case involves a 3-year-old girl and another suspected case is awaiting confirmation. The department said traces of the poliovirus were detected in Manila and Davao.

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The government said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and the Japan National Institute for Infectious Diseases confirmed the discovery.

"We strongly urge parents, health workers and local governments to fully participate in the synchronized polio vaccination," Philippines Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said in a statement.

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"It is the only way to stop the polio outbreak and to protect your child against this paralyzing disease."

Polio is a crippling infectious disease that can invade a patient's brain and spinal cord, causing paralysis and possibly death. The last known case of wild poliovirus in the Philippines appeared in 1993, and the WHO declared it eradicated in 2000.

Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, the WHO Philippines representative, said the organization is working with the United Nations Children's Fund and the Philippines health department to quickly control the outbreak.

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"It is deeply disconcerting that poliovirus has re-emerged in the Philippines after nearly two decades," Abeyasinghe said in a statement. "The outbreak calls for urgent action to protect more children from being infected.

"It reminds us of the importance of increasing immunization coverage to 95 percent of children to stop poliovirus transmission in the Philippines. Vaccination is the only and best protection against polio that mainly affects children under 5 years of age."

Polio is rare around the world, and no cases have originated in the United States since 1979. U.S. virologist Dr. Jonas Salk developed one of the first successful polio vaccines in 1955.

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