News / Middle East

Polio Confirmed in Syria

A Syrian refugee girl helps her brother, who the family suspects has polio, to walk as their mother watches, in a mosque compound in the Shebaa area, southern Lebanon, Oct. 28, 2018.
A Syrian refugee girl helps her brother, who the family suspects has polio, to walk as their mother watches, in a mosque compound in the Shebaa area, southern Lebanon, Oct. 28, 2018.
Lisa Schlein
The World Health Organization (WHO) says it has confirmed 10 cases of polio detected in northeast Syria in mid-October.  The WHO warns protective measures must be taken to prevent the crippling disease from spreading in the region.  

The World Health Organization says 12 other suspected cases of polio are still under investigation.  A spokesman for WHO’s Polio Eradication Program says in a VOA interview there are no additional so-called hot cases at the moment.

Oliver Rosenbauer says disease surveillance is ongoing in Syria and in neighboring countries to look for other cases of acute flaccid paralysis.  But, for now, he says the only known cases are the 22 in Deir Ezzor that were detected and initially reported on October 17.

“The next step will be to genetically look at these isolated viruses and see where they came from.  So that should give some clarity on the origin.  In terms of the danger, of course, this is a communicable disease, and with population movements it can travel.  It can travel to other areas, and so the risk is high of spreading across the region," said Rosenbauer.

This is the first outbreak of polio in Syria in 14 years.  The WHO says most of the victims are children under the age of two, who probably were not vaccinated against the disease. There is no cure for this crippling disease. But polio can be prevented through immunization.

Before the war broke out in 2011, 95 percent of Syria’s children were vaccinated against polio. The WHO estimates half-a-million have not been immunized.  The United Nations and other health agencies are in the middle of a two-week campaign to immunize 2.4 million children in Syria against the disease.

Rosenbauer says plans are afoot to begin large-scale polio immunization campaigns in neighboring countries in early November.  He says the wild poliovirus travels silently across borders.  

He says polio is a very dangerous and debilitating disease, which must be stopped before it spreads.  He says the presence of this virus in Syria, a previously polio-free country, is of great concern.

“I think what this really shows is that polio-free areas everywhere in the world are at risk as long as you have endemic transmission of the virus remaining anywhere.  And, of course, the endemic countries, there are three of them - as you know, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan - so, it is from there that polio will continue to spread.  And I think countries with complex emergencies, where health systems tend to deteriorate, where immunization levels drop, children in those areas are particularly at risk of diseases such as polio,"  he said.

There were 350,000 cases of polio when the World Health Organization began its global polio eradication campaign in 1988.  The number of cases has now dropped by 99 percent.  But getting rid of the few remaining cases of this crippling disease from the last three endemic, conflict-ridden countries is proving to be an enormous challenge.

The World Health Organization warns as long as a single child remains infected, children in all countries are at risk of contracting polio.

You May Like

Video Video Claims to Show Shi'ite Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planeti
X
George Putic
March 04, 2015 8:51 PM
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More