MANILA – The Department of Health is encouraging parents to have their kids aged 5 years and below get vaccinated for poliomyelitis (polio), as this age group is the most vulnerable to the highly infectious viral disease.
Speaking to radio DZMM, DOH Spokesperson Undersecretary Eric Domingo said it is "very unlikely" that older children can get polio.
"As we get older, the likelihood kasi din naman na tayo ay na-expose sa sakit at tayo ay nagkaroon ng immunity from that disease ay mataas," he said.
The DOH confirmed Thursday the re-emergence of polio in the Philippines, 19 years after the World Health Organization declared the country polio-free.
One polio case has been confirmed in a 3-year-old girl from Lanao del Sur, while the virus has also been detected in water sewage samples in Manila and Davao, the DOH said.
Domingo said polio virus is transmitted mainly through the fecal-oral route, and individuals living in areas with poor sanitary conditions, such as those where open defecation is rampant, are most vulnerable to the disease.
“Kapag nagpunta na sa inyong mga barangay ang magbabakuna nitong second week of October, lahat sana ng bata less than 5 years old papatakan natin ng bakuna kontra-polio,” he said.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier warned that the country was at "high risk for poliovirus transmission" as there had been a drop in oral polio vaccine coverage in the past years.
The decrease in polio immunization was traced back to the vaccine scare linked to the controversy over anti-dengue virus Dengvaxia, said to have ill effects if given to those who have not had dengue.
Signs and symptoms include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiff neck and sudden onset of floppy arms or legs. Severe cases can lead to permanent paralysis or even death.
With the reemergence of polio in the Philippines, it joins Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria in the list of countries which have never stopped the transmission of polio.
Polio virus can easily be imported into a polio-free country, according to the World Health Organization.