PUTRAJAYA, Sept 11– The polio outbreak in Malaysia has been declared ended following an official notification by the World Health Organisation (WHO) representative office for Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore to the Health Ministry (MOH).
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the declaration was made following findings by an evaluation team comprising a panel of international experts who had carried out a comprehensive assessment of polio control and prevention measures carried out in Malaysia.
“Based on the assessment, Malaysia’s efforts in the control and prevention of the outbreak have been recognised as successful in stopping the spread of polio,” he said in a statement here today.
Polio is an infectious disease caused by the polio virus that attacks the nervous system which can cause permanent paralysis. It can also cause respiratory failure and can be fatal.
Khairy said despite the success of ending polio in Malaysia, the community must continue to remain vigilant as there were still countries that were not yet free from the disease.
“We need to ensure our polio immunisation coverage remains high to maintain herd immunity against the disease and for Malaysia to be protected from future threats. Besides this, MOH will ensure Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) surveillance and quality environmental surveillance continue to be implemented so that cases can be detected,” he said.
Khairy said at the end of 2019, Malaysia was hit by the shocking return of the disease when one polio case was detected in Sabah, the first in the country after 27 years. Following this, polio prevention and control efforts were intensified and continued despite the country also having to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said the MOH had stepped up efforts to detect polio cases through AFP surveillance nationwide. AFP is an acute symptom resembling polio that is monitored by the MOH to detect polio cases. Through surveillance activity, stool samples to detect the polio virus are taken from each case of AFP among children under the age of 15.
Khairy said from Jan 1, 2019 to Sept 9, 2021, a total of 426 AFP cases had been reported nationwide, out of which four cases of confirmed polio were reported in Sabah. They were aged three months, three years, eight years and 11 years old respectively when they were confirmed to be infected with polio.
He said the last case started experiencing symptoms of paralysis on Jan 18 last year, adding that the confirmed cases were found to have not been or only partially inoculated with the polio vaccine.
Khairy said polio outbreak prevention and control measures by the MOH through the State Health Department had conducted a polio immunisation campaign to stop the spread of the polio virus and prevent the occurrence of polio cases.
He said the polio immunisation campaign in Sabah (KIPS) had been implemented in stages from Dec 27, 2019 to January 20, 2021 in which oral polio vaccine (OPV) were given to all children under 13 in Sabah.
“Through this campaign, a total of 809,261 children received two doses of bivalent oral polio vaccine type 1 and 3 (bOPV) vaccine, while 784,062 children received two doses of monovalent oral polio vaccine type 2 (mOPV2) vaccine.
“In Labuan, meanwhile, the Labuan Polio Immunisation Campaign (KIPL) was implemented from June 11, 2020 to Nov 6, 2020 involving the administration of two doses of the bOPV vaccine targeting all children under the age of 13. A total of 24,297 children have received the vaccine in Labuan,” he said.
In addition, Khairy said polio immunisation through the National Immunisation Programme (PIK) was continued nationwide to ensure that every child received optimal protection from polio infection through the five-in-one vaccine (DTaP-IPV/Hib) shot containing polio antigen components.
They are given to children at the age of two months, three months, five months and 18 months.
He said at the end of 2020 there was a slight change in the PIK schedule where the five-in-one vaccine was changed to the six-in-one series vaccine (DTaP-IPV/HepB/Hib).
“I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all MOH staff, especially the Sabah State Health Department and the Labuan Health Department.
“These are the frontline heroes who have succeeded in ending the polio outbreak at a time when they are also fighting to contain the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.