KUCHING: The Health Department Sarawak has set up ways and means to prevent polio from spreading to the state.

Two more cases of poliomyelitis (polio) in Sabah have rocked the nation again after the first announcement on Jan 10.

The new cases have brought the total number of children infected with the re-emerging disease in Sabah to three.

Director of the state Health Department, Dr Chin Zin Hing, said that it was important to ensure high coverage of polio immunisation of over 95 per cent everywhere. Hence, areas with low coverage have been instructed to achieve the 95 per cent target.

“All hospitals and health facilities have been alerted to strengthen the Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) surveillance.

Dr Chin Zin Hing

“Any cases with sudden onset of paralysis or weakness in any part of the body of a child younger than 15 years old will be reported to the health office and tested for polio virus,” he told New Sarawak Tribune.

Dr Chin added that polio surveillance through reporting and investigation into AFP cases has been in place in the country for many years.

By following the polio outbreak in the Philippines since September, an alert throughout the nation to step up the vigilance on AFP was issued by the Ministry of Health.

Besides that, Dr Chin also said that health education about polio and preventive measures have also been provided, including ensuring sanitary toilet use and personal hygiene care such as hand hygiene after toilet use or before consuming food or preparing food for children.

“It should be noted that polio, like many other diseases, is transmitted through the fecal-oral route,” he said.

In addition, environmental surveillance such as periodic sewage samples collection for laboratory testing of polio virus is a recommended strategy to be vigilant of the virus in the environment particularly in high risk areas.

“Therefore, Sarawak will start testing the environmental samples from high risk areas in particular districts with high risk of polio virus importation — for example, in border areas, very soon,” he said.

On Jan 10, new cases were detected after the Health Ministry implemented preventive and control measures in the state after a three-month-old boy in Tuaran was diagnosed with the disease.

One of the victims is an 11-year-old boy in Kinabatangan, who was brought to a clinic for having fever since Nov 17, last year. The boy was hospitalised on Dec 1 after he complained of back pain and had to use a walking stick.

The second victim is an eight-year-old, who has suffered paralysis and was placed on a ventilator three days after becoming feverish on Dec 9.

On Jan 9, the virus isolated from both cases was confirmed to be the polio virus by the WHO Polio RRL.

“The test also confirmed that the virus in the three cases has genetic associations with polio cases in the Philippines,” he said in a statement, adding that both children are immigrants who were never immunised.