(Bloomberg) – The Philippines has reported its first case of polio in nearly two decades, prompting health authorities to declare an epidemic and mount a mass immunization unit.
A three-year-old girl from the southern province of Lanao del Sur was the first confirmed polio case in the Philippines since 2000, when the Southeast Asian nation was declared free of the infectious disease, the Department of Health said in a statement Thursday.
Polioviruses, which cause the devastating and potentially fatal disease, have also been detected in water samples from Manila and Davao. A single confirmed case or two positive samples from different locations are considered an epidemic in a polio-free country, the Ministry of Health says.
The government will launch a massive oral polio vaccination for children under 5 years of age from next month.
"Apart from immunization, we remind the public to practice good hygiene," said Health Secretary Francisco Duque, warning that polio is spreading rapidly either through direct contact or contamination of food and water.
Last month, the Southeast Asian nation declared a dengue epidemic after hundreds of people died and a ban on a mosquito-borne disease vaccine remains.  Read: Sanofi's Dengue Vaccine Banned in Philippines Amid Backbacks
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