WHO confirms polio outbreak in Syria

Geneva, Oct 30: The World Health Organisation (WHO) said Tuesday that 10 cases of infection with wild poliovirus type 1 had been confirmed in Syria.

Twenty-two children with acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) in the country's Deir al-Zour province were reported Oct 17 and wild poliovirus has been isolated in samples taken from 10 cases. Results on the other 12 were expected within days, Xinhua reported.

According to the WHO, most of the cases are of kids below two years of age and were un-immunised or under-immunised. Estimated immunisation rates in Syria declined from 91 percent in 2010 to 68 percent in 2012.

Wild poliovirus has been isolated in samples taken from 10 cases

It said that Oct 24, a large-scale supplementary immunisation activity (SIA) was launched in Syria to vaccinate 1.6 million children against polio, measles, mumps and rubella, in both government-controlled and contested areas.

Larger-scale outbreak response across Syria and neighbouring countries is anticipated to begin in early November, to last for at least six to eight months depending on the area and based on evolving epidemiology, it said.

The WHO warned that the risk of further international spread of wild poliovirus type 1 across the region is considered to be high due to frequent population movements across the region and subnational immunity gaps in key areas.

A surveillance alert has been issued for the region to actively search for additional potential cases. All travellers to and from polio-infected areas are recommended to be fully vaccinated against polio.

Polio is a highly infectious disease that invades the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis in a matter of hours. It causes permanent paralysis in one of every 200 infected individuals. The virus is most often spread through fecal-oral transmission and usually affects children under age five.

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