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Polio scare: Stool samples taken from Tuaran villagers, test results pending
Published on: Thursday, December 12, 2019
By: Sherell Jeffrey and Stefyanie Myla Michael
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Photos by Edwin Liew 
TUARAN: Residents of Kg Damat here said their village is not the focus of the recent polio case but a neighbouring village that has adopted the name of Kg Damat Baru. 

“As far as we know, the polio case is from the neighbouring Kg Damat Baru which has not been gazetted yet and is resided by people from outside the district,” said Kg Damat Native Chief George Entong Poit, 71. 

He said about four health officials came to his house on Friday afternoon (Dec 6).

“They came and asked how many people are staying in a house near ours. They said they are doing health checks. They left after inspecting the area,” he said. 

On whether health officials took stool samples from them, he said: 

“No, they just came and inspected the area before leaving. They didn’t take any stool samples from us…not from our village. I didn’t suspect anything at that time. I only came to know about the polio case after reading about it in the newspapers,” he said. 

Asked if the residents in the area are from Pulau Gaya, he could not confirm, but said it is possible because most of the houses have oyster shells, which are more likely to come from people residing along the coast. 

On how the area came to be in the hands of others, he said the land of about four or six acres was bought by people from other districts after its original inhabitants decided to sell it in the 1980s. 

It was earlier reported that a three-month-old boy had been diagnosed with polio – 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 for the past 27 years. 

Although the name of the village was not disclosed except for the district, a Daily Express team was sent to the village to probe following reports of health officials being sighted in the area. 

It was understood that the new inhabitants kept their distance from the original inhabitants and soon that area adopted a new name, which is Kg Damat Baru. Some 10 houses, mostly with permanent structures, were seen in the area which, based on observation, were equipped with power and water supply. 

The Daily Express team was greeted with hostile reaction from a male occupant in one of the premises when asked if health officials had paid them a visit. 

“Yes, health officials came and took our stool samples. There is nothing more we can tell you. Results from the samples are not out,” said the man when asked if health officials came to their house. 

Another family in the area, who was a bit more welcoming, said health officials came to their area a few days ago to inspect premises. 

One of the female occupants, who claimed to have stayed in the area for more than 10 years, said it was not unusual to see health officials visiting the area. 

“We see health officials here especially when someone in our village has just given birth. It is not uncommon,” she said. 

Several children were also spotted playing around the vicinity and when asked if they have been vaccinated, one woman said, “Yes, all our children are vaccinated. The last one, a baby, is three-years-old when vaccinated.” 

Health officials were seen arriving at the area about 2.30pm as the Daily Express team continued their survey of the area. 

“We are only here to inspect for contagious diseases and distribute universal container for stool sampling purposes,” said one official when asked about their presence at the site. 

They declined to elaborate more and said they are not authorised to speak to the media. “You can go to our office for any inquiry. We are only here to distribute the container and return to collect the stool samples tomorrow,” said the official. 

The official said they are only carrying out instructions when asked if they are going to any other areas to collect samples.

“We are told to start here. You can go to our office and ask where the next location is,” said one when asked the next area of sampling focus will be. 

Earlier this week, a joint media conference held by the State Health and People’s Wellbeing Minister Datuk Frankie Poon and State Health Director Datuk Dr Christina Rundi, revealed that supplementary vaccination campaign will be expanded to localities which had acute flaccid paralysis case in the past. 

Among areas mentioned are Tuaran, Kota Kinabalu, Penampang, Putatan, Sandakan, Lahad Datu, Kunak and Semporna. 

Poon assured that the department has taken appropriate measures to control the spread of the disease. 

 


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