Pakistani health officials say the country has suspended a nationwide anti-polio campaign after a health worker and two policemen escorting vaccination teams were killed in separate attacks across the country in less than a week.
Pakistan is one of three countries in the world where polio is still endemic. The other two are Afghanistan and Nigeria.
But militant threats and deep-rooted superstition have spurred many parents to refuse to vaccinate their children.
Officials say unidentified gunmen targeted polio workers and police assigned to protect them in three separate attacks this past week, in the heavily rural western regions bordering Afghanistan, before fleeing.
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.