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Philippines declares new polio outbreak after 19 years

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine health officials declared a polio outbreak in the country on Thursday, nearly two decades after the World Health Organization declared it to be free of the highly contagious and potentially deadly disease.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said at a news conference that authorities have confirmed at least one case of polio in a 3-year-old girl in southern Lanao del Sur province and detected the polio virus in sewage in Manila and in waterways in the southern Davao region. Those findings are enough to declare an outbreak of the crippling disease in a previously polio-free country like the Philippines, he said.

The World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund expressed deep concern over polio’s reemergence in the country and said they would support the government in immunizing children, who are the most susceptible, and strengthening surveillance.

“As long as one single child remains infected, children across the country and even beyond are at risk of contracting polio,” UNICEF Philippines representative Oyun Dendevnorov said.

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