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

As AIDS Epidemic Matures, Workplaces Adapt

Issue of AIDS in workplace is one of many social issues being discussed at the 20th International Aids Conference in Australia More

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid