This is not the time to be complacent
Dr KK Aggarwal
The Philippines has announced an outbreak of polio in the country. A poliovirus case was confirmed on 16 September 2019 in a 3-year-old girl from Lanao del Sur. Samples from sewage in Manila and waterways in Davao, as part of the regular environmental surveillance, have also been confirmed to contain the virus. The last known case of wild poliovirus recorded in the Philippines was in 1993. The country was declared wild polio-free in 2000.
The polio outbreak in the Philippines is confirmed to be from a circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2. The World Health Organization (WHO) has expressed its concern about this as wild poliovirus type 2 was certified as globally eradicated in 2015.
India too has been certified Polio free in 2014. The last case of wild poliovirus in the country was reported on 13th January, 2011 from Howrah, West Bengal; since then, no wild poliovirus case has been reported.
The re-emergence of polio in a country which had been declared free of polio almost two decades back has shades of a similar situation in another country.
Measles has made a comeback in the United States. The year 2019 has seen the largest number of cases in a single year since it was officially eliminated from the country in 2000. In 2018, there were 371 confirmed cases of measles in the United States. But, from January to August 2019, CDC has confirmed 1215 cases across 30 states to be measles.
The resurgence of polio in Philippines and measles in the US emphasize that any disease can come back.
Today, diseases do not recognize borders. Globalization has eased travel; it has also become more frequent. This facilitates rapid spread of the infectious diseases within the country and then around the globe.
This is not the time to be complacent. Robust surveillance systems need to be in place to tackle any emerging or re-emerging disease.
While there is no cause for panic, this should serve as a wake-up call for us. It is time to be ready and prepared.