WHO confirms 10 cases of Polio in Syria after 14 yearsFeatured, Health Sunday, November 3rd, 2013
22 children were affected with acute flaccid paralysis, which is the symptom for a number of different diseases, out of which one is polio. 10 were confirmed as wild polio virus type 1. WHO spokesperson Oliver Rosenbauer said that the other 12 are being further investigated, and the lab results are due in the days ahead. All of the victims are under 2 years of age. You can have a look at UNOG’s news briefing here.
The outbreak took place in the Deir el-Zour province. However, Rosebauer feared that the disease will spread swiftly to neighboring regions. Along with Syria, 7 other countries have consented to emergency vaccinations, as a precautionary measure. Presently polio is endemic in three countries, Nigeria, Pakistan and Afganistan. It is speculated that Jihadi extremists could have triggered off the epidemic en route from Pakistan to Syria.
“This is a communicable disease. With population movements it can travel to other areas,” Rosenbauer said. “So the risk is high of spread across the region”.
The Polio virus is highly contagious, and usually infects children. It flourishes in unsanitary conditions and enters the body through consumption of foods contaminated by feces. It then attacks the nerves causing death or paralysis, and at times can spread unnoticed before crippling the victim.
Immediately after WHO declared it received reports of children contracted with polio symptoms in Syria, the country initiated a vaccination campaign targeting all children. But the campaign is facing difficulties in the launch, as they are permitted only limited access. Before the civil war in 2011, 95% of the children had been vaccinated. Now there are 500000 children who have never received immunization.