DAVAO CITY (MindaNews /23 September) — A massive polio vaccination will be conducted here early next month after water samples from the Davao River tested positive for poliovirus, Department of Health (DOH)-Davao regional director Annabelle Yumang said on Monday.
Yumang said the vaccines from the central office of the DOH are expected to arrive first week of October and will be administered immediately to the communities.
To prepare for the vaccination program, she said they have already met with the vaccinators, including the local government units through the municipal and district health offices, to brief them on the guidelines.
She said the agency has yet to determine if the scope of the vaccination program will cover the entire region or will be limited to the communities along the Davao River.
“We have conducted meetings with the local government units. We have also met with the district health offices,” she said.
She said no one has been afflicted with polio yet in the region and assured the public that the agency will do all it can to prevent an outbreak.
In the meantime, the DOH Davao Center for Health Development (DCHD) is conducting a regular environmental surveillance as a supplementary activity and the polio surveillance on individuals showing signs of acute flaccid paralysis or the muscle weakness on the lower extremities of the bodies, which could be a manifestation of the illness.
Yumang urged the public to avoid swimming in the Davao River.
She also asked the public to stop defecating in the rivers and urged local government units “to ensure Zero Open Defecation or the proper use of hygienic toilets and correct disposal of human wastes are observed in their respective communities.”
She said the situation in the region is not yet alarming but emphasized the agency will not wait until someone contracts polio before taking action.
Last week, the agency confirmed that “Polio re-emerged in the Philippines nineteen years after the country was declared Polio-free by World Health Organization (WHO) in 2000.”
In an earlier statement, the DOH Davao Center for Health Development (DCHD) said it conducts regular environmental surveillance as a supplementary activity for Polio Surveillance.
It said monthly water sampling was done since June 5, 2018. The latest water sample taken from the waterways in Davao City yielded positive for poliovirus.
According to DOH, Polio is an “infectious disease which spreads rapidly and can cause paralysis, and on rare occasions, can be fatal. It can be spread when food or drink contaminated by feces with poliovirus is ingested.”
It said there is still no cure for Polio but it “can be prevented with three doses of Oral Polio Vaccine and one dose of Inactivated Polio Vaccine. These vaccines have long been used in the Philippines, proven safe and effective and are given for free in all Health Centers.”
“Promotion for immunization are also intensified in all communities. DOH will continue to strengthen its surveillance activities. We will ensure that all children under 5 years old will receive the complete doses of immunization for Polio Virus,” it said.
“We reiterate to all parents and guardians to review the immunization status of their children and ensure that they are completely immunized. This is the only way to protect a child from the fatal polio virus,” it added. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)