16 Filipino children left permanently disabled by polio since 2019

Photo: Pixabay
Photo: Pixabay

At least 16 Filipino children were left permanently paralyzed by polio since it re-emerged in the country in 2019, the Department of Health announced today.

Dr. Wilda Silva, program manager of the Health Department’s immunization program, said in a briefing today, “Since September 2019 until June 2020, we have a total of 25 polio infections, 16 of these polio infections are polio cases. So what does that mean? When we say polio cases, these are already patients with permanent disabilities.”

“This is when there is paralysis of lower extremities secondary to the poliovirus,” she explained in English and Filipino.

 Read: 19 years after being declared eradicated, government says polio is back in the Philippines

Meanwhile, the rest of the patients are “shedding” the virus but were not left permanently disabled.

The World Health Organization declared the Philippines polio-free in 2000, but in September 2019, a three-year-old girl was discovered infected with the virus in Lanao del Sur. Several other cases were soon discovered, mostly in Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat. The government said that the average polio vaccination rate in the country is at 66 to 68 percent, lower than the ideal rate of 95 percent to ensure herd immunity.

Parents have reportedly become fearful of vaccination due to the controversy surrounding Dengvaxia, an anti-dengue vaccine now banned in the country. It was included in the government’s vaccination program in 2016 and some 800,000 school children were immunized with it. In 2017, Public Attorney’s Office chief Persida Acosta alleged that Dengvaxia had caused hundreds of children to die, a claim rejected by many doctors. The vaccine scare caused many parents to not get their children immunized, which led to a measles outbreak and a national dengue epidemic in 2019.

There is no cure for polio. Its symptoms include vomiting, abdominal pain, constipation, fever, and lethargy. A small number of cases lead to paralysis.

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