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MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) on September 19 declared a polio outbreak in the Philippines, marking the return of the disease after 19 years.
Since the outbreak declaration, the health department has confirmed two cases of polio, both of them in children. The first case, which prompted the declaration of an outbreak, was found in a 3-year-old girl in Lanao del Sur, the poorest province in the country. The second case was found in a 5-year-old boy in a poor community in Laguna.
Two environmental samples of poliovirus were also found in Manila and Davao. (READ: EXPLAINER: What is polio?)
The DOH sees low vaccination coverage, poor early surveillance of polio symptoms, and substandard sanitation practices as culprits in the reemergence.
As a response to the outbreak, the DOH has launched a vaccination program against the disease, which will target the National Capital Region, Calabarzon, Central Luzon, Lanao del Sur, and Davao for the remaining months of 2019. The DOH intends to roll out the program nationwide by 2020. (READ: ‘Polio vaccine is very safe,’ DOH reminds public amid epidemic)
The World Health Organization is one of the health department's close partners in this effort. Rappler reporter Janella Paris sits down with Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO country representative to the Philippines, to talk about polio's reemergence, as well as DOH and WHO efforts to combat not just polio but other vaccine-preventable diseases in the country. – Rappler.com