Get this, the last reported polio case in Malaysia was in 1992. That’s 27 years ago.
Eight years later in 2000, the country was declared polio-free.
But that record is broken this time after a three-month-old male infant from Tuaran, Sabah was diagnosed with the disease.
According to Malaysia’s health director-general, Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, the child is currently under intensive care after his parents complained that he had fever and muscle weakness.
“The patient is currently undergoing treatment in an isolation ward and is in a stable condition but needs respiratory support,“ Noor Hisham was reported to have said.
What is polio?
Poliomyelitis or polio for short is an extremely contagious disease that happens when the poliovirus takes control of the nervous system.
The virus is typically spread through the stool of the infected person, through mouth, water and food.
Does it cause death? Yes. In some cases patients have suffered from paralysis and even death. However, children below 5 are the highest risk for contracting the disease.
Is polio back in Southeast Asia?
Sort of, yes.
In September 20, 2019, Philippines too recorded its first polio cases after 19 years of absence.
The disease had reared its ugly head in an outbreak in Lanao Del Sur and Laguna, two provinces in the Southeast Asian nation.
Interestingly, Noor Hisham revealed that based on test, the child was infected by the very same strain that has genetic links to the one in the Philippines.
So what caused it?
The lack of immunization.
In Malaysia, vaccinating a child against diseases such as polio is not mandatory. Many opt to do so because they’ve been led to believe that vaccinating a child is hazardous and dangerous.
Misinformation is hugely to be blamed for this lack of responsibility on the part of the parents.
“This first case probably is the tip of the iceberg. There is a very high possibility of a rising trend,” public health expert T. Jayabalan warned.
To make matters worse, Noor Hisham said 23 under 15-year-old children who live close by the infant were not vaccinated against polio. Yikes!
“This is a frustrating situation because the spread of the disease … can only be stopped with polio immunisation.”
Currently, the Malaysian health ministry is trying to contain the disease, vaccinating the children, and preventing it from spreading out.
What are the symptoms of polio?
If you or your loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms, be sure to get yourself checked.
- Sore throat.
- Back and neck pain.
- Arm and leg stiffness.
- Muscle tenderness and spasms.
If you have a loved one who hasn’t vaccinated, please encourage them to do so. Better safe than sorry.
Cover image sourced from Reuters.