The Environmental Management Bureau – CAR in coordination with the National Polio Laboratory-Research Institute for Tropical Medicine of the Department of Health conducted ocular visits to Mountain Province, Ifugao and Benguet to identify possible environmental surveillance sites on November 10-12, 2021 for the Polio Endgame Program. The Polio Endgame Program is conceptualized due to the re-emergence of polio in the Philippines in 2019 which has caused the declaration of national polio outbreak in line with International Health Regulations.  Polio is a highly infectious disease which affects mainly children under 5 year-old with up to 95% of infections are asymptomatic. Common symptoms due to heightened infections include irreversible paralysis in the legs.    

The National Polio Laboratory-Research Institute for Tropical Medicine of the Department of Health headed by Dr. Lea Necitas G. Apostol together with the team conducted inspection of possible Environmental Surveillance (ES) sites for expansion and monitoring visit of current ES sites in CAR; and to finalize agreements on the inclusion of selected sites for routine ES. It is by far the most significant method since 2017 which paved way to the detection of polioviruses strains in sewage systems and rivers which is also a basis to declare a polio outbreak in the community.  

Dr. Lea Necitas G. Apostol, coordinator of the Task Force for the Laboratory Containment of Polioviruses in the Philippines said that outbreaks of vaccine derived polio virus (cVDPV1 and cVDPV2) were identified via environmental samples and acute flaccid paralysis surveillance from Manila and some parts of Mindanao. However, the circulation of polio in the environment in other regions not covered by environmental surveillance is still unknown.

The Environmental Management Bureau CAR, as one of the pilot study sites for the environmental surveillance has been actively participating and supporting this initiative since 2017. Samples are being collected only at the Baguio Sewage Treatment Plant monthly and are sent to the RITM for analysis. As part of the expansion, a total of ten (10) sites in rivers and creeks that have high probability contamination with human waste were included and water samples were collected from these sites. Collected samples will be transported to the National Polio Laboratory-Research Institute for Tropical Medicine for analysis to determine the possible presence of fecal coliform, enteroviruses and even the SARS-CoV-2 (CoViD 19). The RITM will provide all the results to DOH CAR, EMB CAR, and the Provincial Health Offices of the three Provinces.