KOTA KINABALU, Dec 11 — The re-emergence of the polio virus in Malaysia after nearly 30 years is most likely due to the unchecked movement of illegal immigrants from the Philippines, local Sabah party Upko said today.
Its supreme council member Joisin Romut said that this could be assumed due to findings from the World Health Organisation (WHO) that a three-month-old Malaysian baby has the same genetic strain of polio that had caused the outbreak in the southern Philippines.
“The confirmation raises questions because Malaysia has been free from the disease for 27 years and all Malaysians were given vaccinations specifically to prevent this disease.
“Like we have said before, the sudden reappearance of polio is very closely related to the presence of illegal immigrants in Sabah,” he said in a statement.
Both WHO and Unicef recently announced that laboratory tests in Australia confirmed the three-month-old boy in Tuaran has a rare strain called circulating vaccine-derived polio (cVDPV) Type 1, which is the same as the one spreading in the Philippines and which only occurs when a population is seriously under-immunised.
Joisin said that the public was rightfully worried because the disease is easily spread among humans and had cropped up again after nearly three decades following the last reported case in Malaysia.
“It’s even more worrying that the case was detected in Sabah and Tuaran,” he said.
Tuaran has several settlements of Filipino immigrants, some of whom have settled in Sabah since the 1970s.
Malaysia’s last reported case of polio was in 1992. The country was declared polio-free in 2000.
Joisin said that Upko empathises with the baby and his family and hoped that the boy recovers as soon as possible.
He also said Upko is grateful for government efforts to deport illegal immigrants back to their country of origin.
He stressed that the polio virus was just one of many social and security problems frequently associated with their presence, like violent crime and drug use.
“We are serious and want action to be taken to prevent these incidents from continuing.
“We are not willing to have Sabah become the vector of the polio disease,” he said.