PETALING JAYA: The polio outbreak in Malaysia is now over, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), health minister Khairy Jamaluddin announced today.
Towards the end of 2019, the nation was shocked by its first polio case in 27 years. After that, three more cases were detected, with the last incident on Jan 18 last year.
In a statement, Khairy said the WHO team that comprised a panel of international experts found that Malaysia’s efforts in controlling and preventing the spread of the disease had been successful.
He added that after the first polio case was detected in December 2019, the health ministry had continued prevention and control efforts even amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said the ministry had increased efforts to detect cases through acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) surveillance across the country. This is an acute symptom that resembles polio.
“From Jan 1, 2019 to Sept 9, 2021, a total of 426 AFP cases were reported across the country.
“Of this, four cases were confirmed to be polio, all of which were reported in Sabah and involved a three-month-old baby and children aged three, eight and 11.
“In the last case, the child started to suffer from symptoms of paralysis on Jan 18, 2020. All four cases were found to have not received or completed their polio immunisations,” said Khairy.
Following the outbreak, the health ministry embarked on a polio immunisation campaign, from Dec 27, 2019 to Jan 20, 2021, giving oral polio vaccines to children aged below 13 across Sabah.
Prior to the outbreak in 2019, the last reported case of polio was in 1992. WHO then declared Malaysia polio-free in 2000.
Meanwhile, polio vaccinations have continued nationwide through the national immunisation programme, with the vaccines given to children when they were two, three, five and 18 months old.
“I want to take this opportunity to congratulate all health ministry staff, especially the Sabah and Labuan health departments.
“They are the frontliners who made our efforts to end the polio outbreak a success while fighting against the Covid-19 pandemic.
“But we must continue to be careful because there are other countries in the world that have yet to be free from polio infections,” he said, adding that AFP surveillance would continue.