News / Middle East

Suspected Polio Outbreak in Syrian Province Spreads

Cases of Polio Worldwide
Cases of Polio Worldwide
Reuters
— At least 22 people are now suspected of having polio in Syria, where health officials are scrambling to respond to the first outbreak of the crippling viral disease in 14 years, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.

Most of those stricken with acute flaccid paralysis - a symptom of diseases including polio - in the eastern province of Deir al-Zor are children under the age of two, WHO spokesman Oliver Rosenbauer said.

"There is a cluster of 22 acute flaccid paralysis cases that is being investigated in that area,'' Rosenbauer told Reuters. "Everybody is treating this as an outbreak [of polio] and is in outbreak response mode.''

The WHO, a U.N. agency, announced on Saturday that two suspected cases of polio had been detected, the first appearance of the disease in Syria since 1999.

Initial tests came back positive for polio in two of the 22 cases and final laboratory results due next week from a WHO reference laboratory in Tunis are "very, very likely'' to confirm presence of the virus, Rosenbauer said.

There is no cure for the highly infectious disease, it can only be prevented through immunization, usually three doses.

More than 100,000 children under age five are deemed at risk of polio in Deir al-Zor province, he said. Most of the countryside is in opposition hands but the city of Deir al-Zor itself is still partially controlled by government forces.

"The main concern right now is to quickly launch an immunization response,'' Rosenbauer said. Vaccination campaigns are being planned across Syria from November but logistics in a civil war are still being discussed.

With some 4,000 Syrian refugees leaving the country daily, immunization campaigns are also planned in neighboring countries, where there may be gaps in coverage, he said.
       
Most of the 22 victims are believed never to have been vaccinated or to have received only a single dose of the oral polio vaccine, Rosenbauer said.

Polio invades the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis within hours. It is endemic in just three countries, Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, but sporadic cases also occur in other countries.

Rosenbauer, asked whether the virus may have been imported into Syria by a foreign combatant fighting in the civil war, replied: "The first step is virological verification that it is the polio virus.

''The next step is that every isolated virus gets looked at genetically to see where is the parent. Hopefully that will provide some clarity on where it would have come from," he said.

The outbreak is the latest setback to international efforts to eradicate polio - as well adding another dimension to Syria's worsening humanitarian crisis as the war forces people from their homes and destroys health systems.

Polio cases worldwide decreased from an estimated 350,000 cases when the campaign began in 1988 to 223 reported cases in 2012, according to the WHO.

So far this year - not including the 22 unconfirmed cases in Syria - there have been 296 cases of wild polio virus worldwide.

You May Like

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

Analysts say move by President Xi is an effort to win more party support, take step toward economic reforms, removing those who would stand in way of change More

South Africa Land Reforms Still Contentious 20 Years Later

Activists argue that the pace of land reform is slow and biased; legal experts question how some proposed reforms would be implemented More

In Vietnam, Religious Freedoms Violated, UN Finds

Beliefs reportedly prompt heavy surveillance, intimidation and travel restrictions More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: S Hollister from: California
October 24, 2013 10:47 PM
Rotary has worked since the mid-80's to eradicate this insidious disease. There is no reason that any person should have to live with this preventable crippling disease.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid