Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Follow-Up: Polio in Syria, where it came from, what's being done to stop it


Update from World Health Organization says the "wild polio virus" found in Syria apparently originated in Pakistan and is related to the examples found in Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian territories over the last year, although no outbreak of the disease occurred in those places. In Syria, because immunization programs broke down in contested areas, 13 cases of the disease have been reported among young children. Previously there had been no cases in Syria since 1999.

Polio in the Syrian Arab Republic - update


Disease outbreak news


11 NOVEMBER 2013 - Thirteen cases of wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) have been confirmed in the Syrian Arab Republic. Genetic sequencing indicates that the isolated viruses are most closely linked to virus detected in environmental samples in Egypt in December 2012 (which in turn had been linked to wild poliovirus circulating in Pakistan). Closely related wild poliovirus strains have also been detected in environmental samples in Israel, West Bank and Gaza Strip since February 2013. Wild poliovirus had not been detected in the Syrian Arab Republic since 1999.


A comprehensive outbreak response continues to be implemented across the region. On 24 October 2013, an already-planned large-scale supplementary immunization activity was launched in the Syrian Arab Republic to vaccinate 1.6 million children against polio, measles, mumps and rubella, in both government-controlled and contested areas. Implementation of a supplementary immunization campaign in Deir Al Zour province commenced promptly when the first ‘hot’ acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) cases were reported. Larger-scale outbreak response across the Syrian Arab Republic and neighbouring countries will continue for at least 6-8 months depending on the area and based on the evolving situation.


Given the current situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, frequent population movements across the region and the immunization level 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.


WHO’s International Travel and Health recommends that all travellers to and from polio-infected areas be fully vaccinated against polio.

WHO update on polio outbreak in Middle East


WHO statement

13 November 2013


A comprehensive outbreak response continues to roll out across the Middle East following confirmation of the polio outbreak in Syria.


Seven countries and territories are holding mass polio vaccination campaigns with further extensive campaigns planned for December targeting 22 million children. In a joint resolution all countries of the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region have declared polio eradication to be an emergency and called on Pakistan to urgently access and vaccinate all of its children to stem the international spread of its viruses. The countries also called for support in negotiating and establishing access to those children who are currently unreached with polio vaccination.


WHO and UNICEF are committed to working with all organizations and agencies providing humanitarian assistance to Syrians affected by the conflict. This includes vaccinating all Syrian children no matter where they are, whether in government or contested areas, or indeed outside Syria.


The first priorities are to resupply and reactivate the required health infrastructure, including redeploying health workers to deliver vaccine in worst-affected areas, and moving vaccine across conflict lines where necessary and possible. The government has committed to reach all children; information on which areas are not reached will guide corrective actions and planning for the next rounds. All parties are working to find solutions for conflict-affected areas.


Dr. Jaouad Mahjour, Director of Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control at WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office, stressed the necessity of reaching all children inside Syria and in neighbouring countries. "WHO and UNICEF are coordinating the vaccination campaign with all concerned parties to make sure that all children are vaccinated no matter where they are located."

Larger-scale outbreak response across the Syrian Arab Republic and neighboring countries will continue, to last for at least 6 to 8 months depending on the area and based on evolving epidemiology.




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This is a follow-up to my story: A Dread Disease Spreads by Accident
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