MANILA, Philippines — Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo called on Filipinos to have their children vaccinated against the poliovirus immediately after the nation’s health officials declared a polio outbreak.

Philippine health officials declared the outbreak after a 3-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy reportedly tested positive for the crippling disease, the first cases since 2000, when the country was declared polio-free, reported

“It is very sad that there is a reemergence of polio after having eliminated it for years,” said Pabillo, who urged the Health Department to address any fears parents might have in getting their children vaccinated.

Polio, short for poliomyelitis, or infantile paralysis, is an infectious disease caused by the poliovirus. The virus is usually spread from person to person through infected fecal matter entering the mouth.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the Health Department declared an outbreak after “environmental samples” from the cities Manila and Davao tested positive for the virus.

The Health Department said that it is working to regain public trust in the government’s vaccination programs in the aftermath of a scrapped anti-dengue campaign.

In 2017, the government recalled the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia after its manufacturer said it could cause severe symptoms if given to those who have not had the mosquito-borne disease before.

Health officials have admitted that since then, all other vaccination programs have been regarded with suspicion.

“The fears of the parents will have to be addressed by educating everyone about vaccination against polio, that it is safe and necessary,” said Pabillo.

He said the Health Department should also be “very transparent in its programs to gain the trust of the people and to allay their fears.” reported health officials admitted that low vaccination coverage, poor early surveillance of polio symptoms, and substandard sanitation practices caused the reemergence of the virus.

Symptoms of polio include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiff neck and sudden onset of floppy arms or legs.

In severe cases, it can lead to permanent paralysis or even death. Children under age 5 are most vulnerable to the disease.

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