News / Middle East

Suspected Polio Outbreak in Syrian Province Spreads

Cases of Polio Worldwide
Cases of Polio Worldwide
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid