Young children especially vulnerable under Syrian polio outbreak

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Young Syrian girl
A young Syrian girl child is the exact age (2-years-old) that medical experts say is the most vulnerable age to contracting polio. Children can spread the highly contagious and dangerous disease through the mouth. Unstable conditions under conflict in the Syrian region can contribute to polio disease contagion. Image: Fabrizio Capecelatro/UNmultimedia

(WNN) Deir Al Zour Province, SYRIA, WESTERN ASIA: Confirming 22 cases of polio with what the WHO – World Health Organization calls “accute flaccid paralysis” the Dir Al Zour Province in northeastern Syria is the location where polio outbreak is causing regional and worldwide concern.

“”Out of those 22 being investigated, 10 are now confirmed to be polio type one,” said Oliver Rosenbauer, spokesman for the World Health Organisation’s anti-polio division based in Geneva.

Laboratory results are still in process for 12 suspected remaining polio cases in Deir al-Zor, said Rosenbauer.

Health agencies located inside Syria and outside the region are now planing a comprehensive response to the outbreak. The exact origin of the outbreak. which began 2 weeks ago, is still under investigation.

On October 24 a targeted immunization campaign was launched that hopes to eventually reach 1.6 million children, protecting them from outbreak of disease, including polio, mumps, measles and rubella, but efforts must be diligent.

Called the SIA – Supplementary Immunization Activity the vaccinations response was implemented quickly when the first cases of polio outbreak were recently discovered.

Given the current situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, frequent population movements across the region and subnational immunity gaps in key areas, the risk of further international spread of wild poliovirus type 1 across the region is considered to be high. A surveillance alert has been issued for the region to actively search for additional potential cases,” said the WHO in a recent public statement issued today.

The world agency for health also recommends that all aid workers or travelers who are entering the region be vaccinated specifically against polio.

Known as poliomyelitis, polio is a highly communicable disease that mainly affects children under 5-years-of-age. Initial symptoms include fatigue, headache, fever, vomiting, as well as stiffness in the neck, legs and arms.

One in 200 polio infections can lead to what medical experts identify as “irreversible paralysis.” Deaths from the viral infection can happen in 5 to 10 percent of infections causing the lung muscles to become paralyzed, preventing normal breathing and causing asphyxiation.

Wild polio virus outbreaks have not occurred in the war-torn region of Syria since 1999. Due to ongoing conditions of conflict and displacement of families in the region, 500,000 children in Syria have not received the standard vaccination against polio. This is the first cluster outbreak that is known to have caused infection in children since almost 15 years.


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