The Department of Health (DoH) on Thursday announced that the polio virus was back in the Philippines, 19 years after the country was declared polio-free by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2000.

Polio, an infectious disease that spreads rapidly, can cause paralysis and, on rare occasions, can be fatal. There is no cure for polio—it can only be prevented with multiple doses of polio vaccines that have long been proven safe and effective.

In a statement, the DoH said one polio case was confirmed in a 3-year-old girl from Lanao del Sur.

“Aside from the confirmed case, a suspected case of acute flaccid paralysis is awaiting confirmation. In addition, the polio virus has been detected in samples taken from sewage in Manila and waterways in Davao as part of the regular environmental surveillance. The samples were tested by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and verified by the Japan National Institute for Infectious Diseases and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” the DoH said.

The health department noted that a single confirmed polio case of vaccine-derived polio virus type 2 (VDPV2) or two positive environmental samples isolated in two different locations is considered an epidemic in a polio-free country.

DoH said it was preparing a rapid response to the polio outbreak, in coordination with local government units and national agencies, and with the support of WHO, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), and other partners.

Measures include a series of synchronized oral polio vaccinations to protect every child under the age of 5 years in areas at risk beginning in October 2019.

The DoH also said it was working with partners to strengthen environmental and Acute Flaccid Paralysis surveillance throughout the country to detect polio virus.

“We strongly urge parents, health workers and local governments to fully participate in the synchronized polio vaccination,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said, adding that “It is the only way to stop the polio outbreak and to protect your child against this paralyzing disease.”

“Aside from immunization, we remind the public to practice good personal hygiene, wash their hands regularly, use toilets, drink safe water, and cook food thoroughly,” the health chief said. (

Thumbnail image: Philippine Information Agency