SYRIA POLIO OUTBREAK: At least 22 people infected
At least 22 people are now suspected of having polio in Syria, where health officials are scrambling to respond to the 1st outbreak of the crippling viral disease in 14 years, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday [24 Oct 2013].
Most of those stricken with acute flaccid paralysis — a symptom of diseases including polio — in the eastern province of Deir al-Zor (Dayr az Zawr) are children under the age of 2 years, 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 UN agency, announced on Saturday (19 Oct 2013) that 2 suspected cases of polio had been detected, the 1st appearance of the disease in Syria since 1999.
More than four million Syrians have been displaced internally by the conflict and generally live in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions. The WHO has already reported increases in cases of measles, typhoid and hepatitis A.
Aid agencies are also developing emergency immunisation plans for Syrian refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt.
“Obviously, we’re extremely worried about the situation,” Simon Ingram, a spokesman for Unicef’s operations in the Middle East, told the BBC.
“People are flooding across borders in an uncontrolled manner and this increases the possibilities and means by which the virus can spread.”
There is no cure for the highly infectious disease; it can only be prevented through immunization, usually 3 doses.
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.