Amidst reports of polio out break in the Philippines, local health officials said that Puerto Princesa City and municipalities in Palawan still remain polio-free.

The provincial and city health office declared that there is no reported polio since 1990s following the Department of Health (DOH) report that Polio is re-emerging in the Philippines nineteen years after the country was declared polio-free by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2000.

In a phone interview Friday, City Health Office (CHO) chief Dr. Ricardo Panganiban said that Puerto Princesa City is free from polio.

“Wala po tayong reported cases of polio matagal na, in my 25 years in service ay personally wala akong nabalitaan then ‘yong five years ko as city health officer ay wala tayong recorded talaga. Kahit sa province, wala tayo,” he said.

Panganiban also said that being polio free of city and province is also an indication of the good implementation of immunization program.

“Masasabi natin na talaga effective at maganda ang immunization program natin dito kasi hindi tayo nagkakaroon ng polio bago pa man madeclare na polio-free ang bansa. Kahit naman sa ibang sakit ay active ang ating mga health worker,” he said.

DOH said that polio is an infectious disease which spreads rapidly. It can cause paralysis and, on rare occasions, can be fatal. There is no cure for polio—it can only be prevented with multiple doses of polio vaccines that have long been proven safe and effective.

In report of health department, one polio case was confirmed in a 3-year-old girl from Lanao del Sur.

Aside from the confirmed case, a suspected case of acute flaccid paralysis is awaiting confirmation. In addition, the poliovirus has been detected in samples taken from sewage in Manila and waterways in Davao as part of the regular environmental surveillance.

The samples were tested by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and verified by the Japan National Institute for Infectious Diseases and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A single confirmed polio case of vaccine-derived polio virus type 2 (VDPV2) or two positive environmental samples that are genetically linked isolated in two different locations is  considered an epidemic in a polio free country.

Panganiban said that having a polio case may attribute to the low immunization rate of the country due to the dengvaxia controversy.

“Siguro nakalusot lang ‘yan kasi matagal ng wala ang polio, para sa akin siguro dahil din bumaba nga ang rate ng bansa natin pagdating sa immunization kaya may mga bata na malamang ay hindi nabakunahan,” Panganiban said.

In a text message, Provincial Health Office (PHO) chief Dra. Mary Ann Navarro said that there was no recorded polio cases in Palawan since 1990.

“Last cases of polio was 20 years ago. Ngayon wala tayo,” she said.

In a statement, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III urged the public to participate in synchronized polio vaccination.

Duque said that they are also working with partners to strengthen environmental and Acute Flaccid Paralysis surveillance throughout the country to detect poliovirus.

This includes a series of synchronized oral polio vaccinations to protect every child under the age of 5 years in areas at risk beginning in October 2019.

“We strongly urge parents, health workers and local governments to fully participate in the synchronized polio vaccination,” said, adding that “It is the only way to stop the polio outbreak and to protect your child against this paralyzing disease.Aside from immunization, we remind the public to practice good personal hygiene, wash their hands regularly, use toilets, drink safe water, and cook food thoroughly,” he said.

DOH is in close coordination with local government units and concerned national agencies, and with the support of WHO, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and other partners, is preparing a rapid response to the polio outbreak.

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is the chief of correspondents of Palawan News. She covers defense, politics, tourism, health, and sports stories. She loves to travel and explore different foods.