Two more cases of polio confirmed in Sabah, a month after Malaysia's first case in 19 years

A health worker displays a vial of polio vaccine in Manila, on Oct 14, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - One month after a polio case emerged in Malaysia after the country was declared polio-free since 2000, two more children have been confirmed to be down with the illness.

Aged eight and 11, both boys are non-Malaysians living in Sabah who did not receive any form of immunisation since birth. They were believed to be from the Philippines, which is next door to Malaysia's Sabah state.

The 11-year-old, from Sabah's Kinabatangan district, had a fever on Nov 17 and was admitted into a hospital on Dec 1 after suffering back pain and walking difficulties.

He can now walk with the aid of a walking stick.

The eight-year-old child who lives in Sandakan town came down with a fever on Dec 9. Three days later, he could not walk.

He has since been given respiratory aid at hospital.

Malaysia's Health Ministry, which released the details on Friday (Jan 10), said the cases were discovered during a surveillance for acute flaccid paralysis (AFP), which was conducted after a three-month-old Malaysian boy from Tuaran district came down with polio last month.

The Tuaran boy is still in an isolation room at the hospital. He is being given respiratory aid and his condition is stable.

AFP is a clinical syndrome which is characterised by weakness of the muscles for respiration and swallowing.

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said faecal samples from the two boys were sent to the World Health Organisation Polio Regional Reference Laboratory (WHO Polio RRL) in Melbourne for confirmation tests and genetic sequencing.

"On Jan 9, the virus isolates in both cases were confirmed to be polio positive by the WHO Polio RRL, " he said in the statement on Friday.

"With the two new polio cases, there are now three polio cases. All patients are still receiving treatment at the hospital and their condition is stable."

According to Dr Noor Hisham, the polio virus detected in all three cases had a genetic connection to polio cases in the Philippines.

He said a detailed investigation was ongoing to ascertain the source of infection in the two new cases.

"At present, as many as 705 people staying near the residence of the two children were checked and no more new AFP cases were detected, " he said.

Dr Noor Hisham also urged the public to take precautionary measures recommended by the ministry, which included vaccinating their children and ensuring personal hygiene.

The case of the Tuaran boy with polio was made known by the ministry on Dec 8.

It was the first such polio case in the country since 1992.

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