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

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid