Statewide polio immunisation in Sabah after Tuaran case

Sabah health minister Frankie Poon (right) and state health director Dr Christina Rundi speaking to the press in Kota Kinabalu today.

KOTA KINABALU: A statewide polio immunisation campaign is to be carried out in Sabah after a three-month-old baby was confirmed to have the disease in Tuaran near here.

Health officials will focus on Tuaran,Kota Kinabalu, Penampang and Putatan districts in the west coast, and Sandakan, Lahad Datu, Kunak and Semporna in the east.

State health minister Frankie Poon urged parents and other members of the public to take part in the immunisation programme.

He said that since the Tuaran case was reported efforts had been made to detect cases of acute flaccid paralysis, which is the proxy to the poliomyelitis disease.

“Up to Dec 5, a total of 646 people have been tested and no symptoms have been detected,” he said. Investigations were continuing to ascertain the source of the infection.

The Tuaran case is the first polio case reported in Malaysia for nearly three decades. The baby boy tested positive last Friday after being admitted to hospital with a fever and muscle weakness.

Malaysia was declared polio-free in 2000, after the last known case of the disease was reported in 1992. The latest case comes just months after the Philippines reported its first cases of polio since 1993 in September.

To a question that if the virus could have come from the Philippines because of the outbreak and that Sabah had a large presence of Filipino migrants, Poon said he was unsure if it was so.

Sabah health director Dr Christina Rundi said: “It doesn’t matter where it comes from but the issue is we need to make sure the coverage is high – that’s the target for any country. We don’t care where it comes from but instead ensure it does not spread.”

She added it is almost impossible to identify with accuracy where the virus originated from.

Rundi said migrant workers were only screened for TB now and not for polio because Malaysia was declared polio-free since 2000.