Malaysian health authorities on Monday launched a vaccination campaign in rural areas of the jungle-covered island of Borneo after detecting the first case of polio since the Southeast Asian country declared itself free of the viral disease in 2000.
The infected is a three-month-old boy in the town of Tuaran, who was hospitalized with fever and muscle weakness and tested positive for the virus on December 6, the Director-General of Malaysia’s Health Ministry, Noor Hisham Abdullah, said in a statement issued on Sunday.
“The patient is currently under treatment in an isolation ward and in a stable condition, but still requires respiratory support,” the official added in his statement.
Malaysia is the second Asian country to have recorded a polio infection this year after the Philippines, which declared an outbreak of the circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV) on September 19, reports Efe news.
According to Noor Hisham, tests conducted by the World Health Organization’s Polio Regional Reference Laboratory in Melbourne showed that the virus detected in the Malaysian infant was genetically linked to the strain in the Philippines, which neighbours Borneo.
Noor Hisham said that a survey of polio-infected children in Sabah, one of Malaysia’s two states located on the north of Borneo, the world’s third-largest island, found that 23 out of 199 children aged between two months and 15 years had not been vaccinated.
“This is a worrying situation, as the spread of polio can only be stopped with immunization,” he said. “Vaccination rates should always be higher than 95 per cent to prevent infection.”
The last case of polio registered in Malaysia occurred in 1992. Eight years later, the country was declared polio-free along with the other nations in the Western Pacific Region. (IANS)