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WHO Confirms 10 Polio Cases In Syria, Warns Disease Could Spread Across Region

The WHO on Tuesday “confirmed 10 polio cases in north-east Syria, the first confirmed outbreak in the country in 14 years, and warned that the disease could spread across the region,” the Associated Press reports (10/29). “Tests confirmed polio in 10 out of 22 children in Deir al-Zour Province in northeastern Syria who became ill this month, said [WHO spokesperson] Oliver Rosenbauer,” the New York Times writes, adding, “Results of tests on the other 12 children are expected soon, he added” (Cumming-Bruce, 10/29). “Most victims are under two years old and are believed never to have been vaccinated against the crippling disease or to have received even a single dose of the oral vaccine instead of three which ensure protection, Rosenbauer said,” France 24 notes (10/29).

“WHO spokesperson Glenn Thomas added that health authorities in Syria and neighboring countries had already begun the planning and implementation of the comprehensive outbreak response,” according to the U.N. News Centre (10/29). “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,” VOA News notes, adding, “Rosenbauer says plans are afoot to begin large-scale polio immunization campaigns in neighboring countries in early November” (Schlein, 10/29). “Genetic sequencing of the virus found in Syria is expected within the next [few] days, which will identify the geographic origin of the first polio outbreak in the war-torn country since 1999,” Reuters notes (Nebehay, 10/29).

Additional coverage is available from ABC News/Good Morning America, Al Jazeera America, Bloomberg, CIDRAP News, Deutsche Welle, GlobalPost, NPR’s “All Things Considered,” NPR’s “Shots,” PBS NewsHour, Reuters, and UNICEF.