By NewsDesk @infectiousdiseasenews
The Philippines has been declared polio-free since October 2000. However, the country is currently at high-risk for poliovirus transmission.
For the past years, vaccination coverage for the third dose of the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) has fallen below 95%, the target required to ensure population protection against polio; the surveillance on Acute Flaccid Paralysis has been consistently poor; and the practice of open defecation and poor sanitation have been persisting in communities.
Furthermore, the Philippines is at risk for importation of poliovirus from neighboring countries where the virus has recently been found to have recirculated. In response, the Department of Health (DOH) identified priority areas which need to strengthen preventive measures against polio.
“Unless we act quickly in putting our surveillance on alert to detect signs of poliovirus transmission, in strengthening our immunization program, and in improving environmental hygiene and sanitation, we risk losing our polio-free status. Most importantly, we risk the health and future of our children due to a disease which otherwise could have been prevented,” Secretary Francisco Duque III emphasized.
Polio is a fatal and disabling disease caused by poliovirus, which is transmitted when there is poor environmental sanitation and hygiene. Complete vaccination is the best preventive measure against polio. All children under one year old should complete their three doses of OPV and one dose of the Inactivated Polio Vaccine.
DOH has planned measures to enhance polio prevention in Metro Manila. Among these measures are strengthened surveillance of children below 5 years old who developed sudden onset of muscle weakness or paralysis of the upper and lower extremities and a polio immunization campaign for all children under five years old.
DOH also called for all local governments to intensify the implementation of the Zero Open Defecation program and to strengthen the call for environmental sanitation and personal hygiene, such as frequent handwashing. Furthermore, DOH reiterated its advisory that the Manila Bay remains unsafe for swimming.
The synchronized polio immunization is expected to start in the City of Manila by mid- August 2019. After that, the immunization activity will expand to the entire National Capital Region and eventually to other priority regions.
The Department of Health (DOH) together with the World Health Organization (WHO), United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Global Fund formally recognized their commitment to completely eliminate tuberculosis (TB) by signing a joint pledge of support in a bid to take the Philippines off the list of countries with the highest TB burden in the world.
“For years, many Filipinos have suffered from TB. We all need to accelerate our efforts to end TB in the Philippines,” said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, speaking at the DOH-led National Coordinating Committee on TB.
According to a 2017 global report, approximately 581,000 Filipinos were diagnosed with active TB disease and 27,000 Filipinos were reported to have died of TB.
“TB is curable, and together we can prevent thousands of preventable deaths from TB.” Secretary Duque spoke about the government’s commitment to find and treat 2.5 million TB patients by 2022, a target that was pledged at the 2018 UN High Level General Assembly in New York City. He also mentioned that DOH shall be accountable and continue to work with its partners to make health systems more responsive to patient needs.
To highlight their shared commitment and responsibility, leaders of DOH, USAID, WHO and the Global Fund signed the joint pledge of support to implement a “business not-as-usual” approach to accelerate TB response. Development partners will continue to provide strategic packages of technical assistance, supplies, and human resources to fast track TB programming in the country. The U.S. government is also investing over 3 billion pesos in projects that support the National Tuberculosis Control Program.
“Today, USAID is reaffirming our commitment to strengthen the capacity of the Department of Health to accelerate, scale up and sustain the TB response,” said USAID Acting Mission Director Patrick Wesner.
The DOH’s Epidemiology Bureau revealed that the 14,321 new dengue cases were reported from July 28 to August 3. Within this period, 46 deaths were reported.
The 188,562 cumulative cases reported from January 1 to August 3 this year was also higher than the 93,149 cases dengue cases recorded in the same period last year.