Return of Polio in the Philippines: Why is this Deeply Troubling News?

A resurgence of polio could paralyze more than a thousand children in the Philippines every year within a decade.

Polio has been eliminated from the Philippines since year 2000. The country has been certified polio-free, with the last recorded polio case in 1993 by the Department of Health. Thanks to widespread polio vaccination in the country. The return of the polio virus thus indicates a breakdown in the public health program that eradicated the disease and helps keep it at bay. 

 

The Department of Health says the country might see a possible resurgence of polio in light of the continuous drop in thenumber of children receiving the oral polio vaccine (OPV) in recent years. The Philippines has been falling short of the ideal polio immunization coverage rate since 2016.

The Department of Health (DOH) issued a warning on the possible return of polio after the number of vaccinations went down.


Polio is a serious viral infection and, for up to 1 in every 100 people affected, can cause temporary or permanent paralysis. Polio is a highly contagious disease caused when the polio virus invades the nervous system. It is caused by any one of three related viruses called poliovirus types 1, 2, and 3. The virus spreads from person to person and can invade an infected person’s brain and spinal cord, causing paralysis (can’t move parts of the body).

 

Itis spread by consuming food or water contaminated with infected fecal matter. If someone touches anything contaminated with human waste that has the virus, and then touches the mouth and eats food without washing their hands properly, the virus could enter through the mouth. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiff neck and sudden onset of floppy arms or legs. Severe cases can lead to permanent paralysis or death by breathing paralysis. 

Children under five years are most vulnerable. The disease hits the brain and spinal cord usually of children without proper vaccines. 

But polio has no cure, making vaccination vital as the best way to prevent the disease. The DOH said it would conduct 3 rounds of synchronized polio vaccination for all children under 5 years old, regardless of their previous vaccination status.


While the polio vaccine can cause reactions like mild fever, soreness, and redness at the injection site, these are typical. It has also been proven to be safe for young children and have been instrumental in eliminating polio and the eradication of the disease globally. Vaccines have helped greatly in curbing the number of children who die from infectious diseases, which are among the leading causes of death among children under 5 years of age in the Philippines. 

Though vaccinating our children is one of the most basic medical interventions to ensure that our children develop as healthy adults, another way to protect children from polio is by keeping the surroundings clean and practicing proper hygiene. 

It is therefore imperative that we make this final push to strengthen the call for environmental sanitation and personal hygiene, such as frequent handwashing. If we fail to get over the finish line, we will need to continue expensive control measures for the indefinite future. A resurgence of polio could paralyze more than a thousand children in the Philippines every year within a decade.

 Now is the time, we must not fail.