By NewsDesk  @infectiousdiseasenews

In mid-August, the local government of Manila conducted a mass immunization campaign against polio, targeting about 197,000 children under 5 years old. This was for several reasons–in recent 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.

Poliovirus Image/CDC

In addition, the Philippines is at risk for importation of poliovirus from neighboring countries where the virus has recently been found to have recirculated.

Then over the weekend, the Department of Health (DOH) appealed to parents to have their children vaccinated against polio, after a test on Manila’s sewage showed the existence of the virus that causes the debilitating disease.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said a recent sampling of Manila’s sewage tested positive for the vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV), which the World Health Organization (WHO) defines as “an excreted vaccine-virus that can continue to circulate for an extended period of time.”

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 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 Philippines has been declared polio-free since October 2000.