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WHO Warns Polio Could Spread Across Syria, Beyond

“The WHO issued a warning stating that there is high risk of infectious polio disease spreading across Syria and beyond, after 10 cases were confirmed among young children in the eastern Syrian province of Deir al-Zour,” RT News reports. “Along with Syria, seven neighboring countries have announced plans to start emergency vaccinations in response to the risk, according to the WHO,” the news service notes (10/30). According to the Atlantic Wire, these countries include “Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, Israel and Egypt” (Ohlheiser, 10/29). “The situation is ‘a wake-up call,’ says Marc Sprenger, director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in Stockholm,” Nature writes, noting “Europe is surprisingly vulnerable” as many countries “dropped their guard” after the WHO declared the region free of polio in 2002, resulting in “incomplete” surveillance systems and “suboptimal vaccination rates” in some countries (Butler, 10/29). In February, the WHO confirmed poliovirus was “found in sewage samples in two areas of greater Cairo,” the Globe and Mail states, adding, “The virus was also isolated this year in sewage samples collected in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip” (Ha, 10/29).