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Malaysia has experienced its first polio case in almost three decades after a 3-month-old baby tested positive in early December.

The presence of polio was first suspected after the infant was admitted to a hospital in Malaysia’s Sabah state, located on the island of Borneo, with muscle weakness and fever.

Malaysia’s polio case comes just months after the disease was identified in the Philippines for the first time in 20 years.

A report from the World Health Organization revealed the Malaysian child was infected with a strain of polio that shared genetic links to the virus first detected in near-by Philippines. The strain originated from a rare and mutated form of the weaker live polio virus used in vaccinations. 

This particular type of polio spreads in areas with poor sanitation and low immunization rates through the consumption of feces via contaminated water or food.

"The patient is being treated in an isolation ward and is in stable condition, but still requires assistance to breathe,” Director General of Health Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a statement, according to Al Jazeera. "This is a worrying situation as the spread of the disease ... can only be stopped with polio immunization.”

To stop the virus’ spread, an immunization campaign will be carried out throughout Sabah. 

Already, authorities have examined over 660 people in the boy’s village, which revealed 25 out of 214 children between two months and 15 years of age had not received the polio vaccine. Malaysia’s Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad told a media conference all were found to be free of the virus, according to the Malay Mail. 

Fecal samples, likewise, have already been collected from close contacts to the child as a precaution. 

"At the same time, two environmental samples from the case’s residential area and one sample from the district have been taken to detect any presence of polio,” he said. “We expect the results to be ready in three weeks time.”

Unvaccinated children under the age of 15 in the area will be prioritized in the immunization campaign, as will surrounding districts with less than 95% vaccination rates.


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