CDC advises against taking babies to polio-hit Philippines

Taiwan's Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warned parents about taking babies to the Philippines Friday, following the reemergence of polio, a highly infectious viral disease. (Shutterstock)
Taiwan's Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warned parents about taking babies to the Philippines Friday, following the reemergence of polio, a highly infectious viral disease. (Shutterstock)

TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warned parents about taking babies to the Philippines Friday, following the reemergence of polio, a highly infectious viral disease.

In a statement, the CDC said there have been three polio cases in the Philippines since the first in 19 years was reported on Sept. 19.

The three patients, who had not been vaccinated against the disease, were infected by vaccine-derived poliovirus, and have all suffered acute paralysis in their limbs, the CDC said.

CDC Deputy Director-General Philip Lo (羅一鈞) advised parents to ensure their children receive all three required polio vaccinations so they are 99 percent protected.

The first and second vaccinations provide only 90 percent protection, he said.

“It is important not to take children below six months or those who have not had the third polio vaccination to the Philippines,” Lo urged.

Those who receive the third vaccination should also wait for two weeks before traveling to the country, he added.

Vaccine-derived polio is caused by a vaccine strain and is linked to the oral polio vaccine, which is made from a weakened strain of the poliovirus and is given as drops in the mouth to protect against polio.

This vaccine has been extremely effective in wiping out polio in developing countries where most of the population gets vaccinated. However, in areas where there are low rates of vaccination against polio and sanitation is poor, the weakened vaccine virus can spread from person to person, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The fact that only 66 percent of young children in the Philippines have been immunized led to the outbreak of vaccine-derived polio there, Lo explained.

According to the World Health Organization, polio is a highly infectious viral disease, which mainly affects young children. The virus is transmitted person-to-person, mainly through the fecal-oral route or, less frequently, by a common vehicle (such as contaminated water or food) and multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system and cause paralysis.

Initial symptoms of polio include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck, and pain in the limbs. In a small number of cases, the disease causes paralysis, which is often permanent. There is no cure for polio, it can only be prevented by immunization.

By Flor Wang and Chang Ming-hsuan

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