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Polio scare: 'Many Pulau Gaya folks settled in Tuaran village'
Published on: Wednesday, December 11, 2019
By: R Gonzales
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TUARAN: Neighbours at Kg Damat in Jalan Sungai Damit, here, who they suspect is where a three-month-old was confirmed to have the polio virus, claim that one of the parents is a Filipino migrant from Pulau Gaya who married a local and settled there in the 1990s.

The neighbours, who did not wish to be identified, said there were many others from Pulau Gaya who also began to reside there since. 

They said although they were not officially told if their village was the focus, their curiosity was aroused by visits of health officials lately. One resident said they saw health officials carrying out regular inspections at a particular house in the village the past two days. 

“We read the statement issued on the Ministry’s website, about a victim diagnosed with the polio virus in Tuaran. However the exact location was not revealed, we don’t know if it happened here or not. 

“However, the presence of health officials carrying out inspections and surveys here raised questions,” he said. 

He said there are over 300 residents in the village, including outsiders who have stayed in the area since the 1990s. 

“Some are married to locals and work here, some have even built their houses here,” he said. 

He hoped a thorough check-up will be conducted to prevent the infection if indeed the virus was indeed from the village. 

Villagers said several individuals carried out inspections at their homes through stool samples but did not comment further. “They (health officials) came to residents houses and the family members were asked to provide a sample of their stool. 

According to the Ministry’s website, the victim is currently being treated at a hospital’s Intensive Care Unit after coming down with fever and fatigue. 

The three-month-old boy had been diagnosed with vaccine-derived poliovirus type 1 (VDPV1). Better known as polio virus on Dec 6, believed to have a genetic link to the Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) case in the Philippines. 

This is the first case since Malaysia was declared free of polio virus infection for the past 27 years. 

Meanwhile, the type of polio virus contracted by a three-month old boy 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.

Malay Mail reported 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.

Earlier, 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.


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