THE Health department yesterday confirmed a fourth case of polio in the country — the third one from Mindanao — after almost two decades of being free from the disease.

“The test conducted by our Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and the National Institute of Infectious Diseases -Japan confirms the fourth case of polio in the country,” Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said in a statement.

Last week, the third case of polio was reported from a four-year-old girl in Mindanao.

In September, the first two cases of polio emerged — the first case was from a girl in Lanao Del Sur while the second one was from a boy in Laguna province.

Polio is caused by the poliovirus that infects the brain and spinal cord, causing paralysis or even death. There are no cures for polio but there are vaccines for its prevention.

The Health department earlier conducted supplemental oral polio immunization rounds for children under five years old.

The agency said it would intensify monitoring of children below five years who have developed sudden muscle weakness or paralysis of the upper and lower extremities.

Health officials in September told senators they lacked manpower to enforce a nationwide immunization program, after reports that a lower vaccine coverage had led to outbreaks of certain diseases including polio.

During a Senate hearing, Health medical specialist Anthony Calibo said the agency has lacked technical assistance in its immunization programs for the past few years.

He said DoH had proposed to create an immunization unit to address the resurgence of diseases but this was disapproved. — Gillian M. Cortez